Published on Wednesday, June 4, 2003 by the Agence France Presse
Myanmar's Suu Kyi Injured in Violent Protests, Many Feared Dead: Source
Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was injured in the head and shoulder by a military-backed mob in clashes last week that are believed to have left dozens dead, sources said.
"She was hurt by shards of glass on her face and shoulder," a source close to the stalled national reconciliation dialogue told AFP on Wednesday, citing witnesses at the protests which broke out in northern Myanmar Friday.
The source said the extent of her injuries, sustained when protesters smashed the windscreen of her car, were not known but he believed they were not life-threatening as "otherwise she wouldn't be held in the camp".
Myanmar's military junta has denied Aung San Suu Kyi was hurt and said only four people died in the clashes which pitted pro-democracy supporters against a group aligned with the regime.
"The toll given by the junta is totally below reality and is probably much closer to the 70 to 80 dead figure which has been circulating (among dissidents)," the source said.
There were also grave fears for the safety of National League for Democracy (NLD) vice-chairman Tin Oo, who had been traveling in Aung San Suu Kyi's entourage.
"We have very good reasons to be very worried. We have absolutely no news of Tin Oo. We don't know if he's dead or alive," the source said.
Diplomats in Yangon, who were told in a foreign ministry briefing Tuesday that Aung San Suu Kyi was unharmed, said the news would spark a second wave of condemnation from their capitals which have already called for her immediate release.
"The first protests will have thought to have been made on false information," one diplomat said.
"People will be more and more dismayed -- they will be bloody cross actually and the regime will have no credibility whatsoever."
Describing the briefing by deputy foreign minister Khin Maung Win as "pathetic", he said many questions remained about the incident, including why the authorities did not step in to protect Aung San Suu Kyi and her party.
"There is a feeling here that they have been trying to orchestrate an event to discredit the NLD -- they are very frustrated about the popularity she has developed."
Life in Yangon was normal Wednesday, but it was unclear what kind of reaction could be provoked by confirmation of the widespread rumors that the democracy figurehead had been harmed.
"One suspects that under certain circumstances this country might be a tinder box and you might only have to light a spark, but it's very hard to predict how people will take it," the diplomat said.
Some 15 to 20 exiled Myanmar students gathered at the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok on Wednesday to submit a protest letter but they dispersed peacefully.
In a move that has delayed the news leaking out, the entire NLD leadership apart from Tin Oo is under house arrest and the other members of Aung San Suu Kyi's entourage are believed to be held at Yangon's notorious Insein jail.
"This information came from direct eyewitnesses. If people don't want the truth to be known, any eyewitness is in danger," the source close to the peace process told AFP.
UN envoy to Myanmar Razali Ismail, who is due to arrive in Yangon Friday on a mission to revive the reconciliation process, is attempting to determine the situation in the country and may not go ahead with his trip, he added.
"He will wait until the last minute before he takes his decision."
Myanmar last saw violent demonstrations in 1988, when protests demanding an end to the military dictatorship in place since 1962 swept across the country and left hundreds or thousands dead according to different estimates.
Two years later, the junta agreed to elections but was shocked by the NLD's landslide victory and refused to hand over power. The resulting impasse lasts to this day.
Copyright 2003 AFP