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A police report following the infamous Depayin massacre in 2003, in which a convoy carrying Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters was attacked, claims that only four people died, far short of the 70 deaths estimated by observers.
The title of the 11-page internal report, seen by DVB, refers to “the disturbance” that took place on 30 May 2003 in Depayin town in Sagaing division, and comprises “accounts from 117 witnesses”, none of which are identified.
It claims that a number of slingshots and pellets were found in the car Suu Kyi, her driver and bodyguard were travelling in, which came under attack eight years ago today. The discovery of the weapons, it claimed, was proof that Suu Kyi knew her supporters were preparing to “attack the peaceful protesters” that had harassed her convoy over the previous month as it travelled around Burma.
It also refers to the Nobel laureate, who spent the subsequent seven years under house arrest, with the regime citing her own security, as Daw Suu Kyi – considered a disparaging name among Burma’s pro-democracy movement.
The findings of the report contrast sharply with documentation of the incident in the eight years since it took place. Members of Suu Kyi’s convoy, the majority of whom were National League for Democracy (NLD) members, have recounted how upon arrival in Kyiywar village on the outskirts of Depayin township, hundreds of people armed with sticks and other weapons blocked the road.
Her driver at the time, Kyaw Soe Lin, told DVB in an exclusive interview last year that a mob carrying knives surrounded the vehicle, some of whom were wearing monk robes. A number of young NLD supporters who had tried to act as a shield between the car and the attackers were beaten to death.
Kyi Kyi Myint, who was travelling in the convoy at the time, said that two monks had flagged down the car near to Kyiywar village and asked Suu Kyi to make a speech. “Just as this was happening, our car shook violently, and we saw about five or six vehicles coming with their headlights on,” she told DVB today.
“The mob started beating up people including villagers from Kyiywar, kids and the elderly indiscriminately, killing two men on the spot.” Kyi Kyi Myint and two women in her car were also beaten. “They kept on with the beating and when the noises died down, one of their leaders shouted: ‘It’s all good men! They are all dead. Get back into the cars’.” The injured who then began to flee the scene were arrested.
The police report states however that upon seeing the mob blocking the road, the NLD convoy “came charging in the direction of the mob”. One of these was a pickup truck carrying Suu Kyi, it claimed.
The truck “ignored the mob” and “instead came in with increased speed”, forcing “all the people – abbots, monks and commission members – to dive off their chairs to avoid getting hit by the vehicle”. A second vehicle brushed past a motorbike, causing the driver to come off, and “a third vehicle following the second one ran over the motorbike driver. After that, the driver lost control and the vehicle came to stop when it hit a tree”.
A convoy of motorbikes then “aggressively rammed into the mob”, the police report says. Many people scarpered down nearby dirt tracks, “but the motorbikes followed them down there, still trying to hit them”.
“The people [referring to the mob] finally lost their temper and a riot, lasting for about 15 minutes, ensued.” Around 150 NLD supporters from Kyiywar village then arrived with weapons and began smashing the windows of minibuses that had carried the mob, which is referred to as the “anti-DSK mob”, shorthand for Daw Suu Kyi.
The police file quoted an anonymous Abbot who was reportedly witness to events at Depayin. “We were lucky to be alive given that her [Suu Kyi’s] car was driven very fast,” he said. “She is a very vile and rude woman [who is] trying to provoke a problem. Why don’t you just leave given that circumstances are out of control?”
The exact identity of the plain-clothed men who set upon the convoy has never been ascertained, although speculation has rested on members of the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), which last year became the now-ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, or the notorious Swan Arr Shin militia.
The Hong Kong-based Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) said in a follow-up report to the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) that it was “a well-organised and premeditated attack… planned in advance with the connivance of the highest authorities”, an evaluation supported by the Burma Lawyers’ Council.
Of the four people listed as dead in the police report, two are NLD members – Tin Maung Oo and Myint Soe – and two are “non-NLD members”. Three of these died from “injuries sustained from reckless driving”.
The Ad Hoc Commission formed of the Burma Lawyers’ Council and the National Council of the Union of Burma said in a report dated 25 June 2003 that at least 70 people were killed by the 5000-strong mob that had gathered outside Kyiywar village.