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Burmese major and son flee into Thailand


Officer slams junta's crackdown on monks

Bangkok, Thailand -- A senior Burmese military officer has fled to Thailand saying he refused orders to attack Buddhist monks in last week's anti-junta protests and denouncing the military regime.

Major Htay Win, 42, and his 17-year-old son say they rowed over a river separating Burma and Thailand. They were aided by Karen who live in the area and have been persecuted by the military junta.

They hope to get asylum in Norway or Sweden. Their story was reported by Norwegian radio and newspapers yesterday.

''As a Buddhist myself, when I heard that monks had been shot dead on the streets and that other people had been shot dead, I felt very upset,'' the major said in a video interview.

''As a Buddhist, I did not want to see such killing.''

He told the Norwegian media he had heard rumours of about 200 killed during the protests, but had not witnessed any killings and could not confirm the numbers.

''If he had refused to obey orders, he would have been killed,'' the major's son said in the interview printed in Norway.

It is the first known case of a military officer fleeing Burma since the junta ordered the crackdown that left at least 13 people dead, with more than 1,000 people detained.

Speaking through an interpreter, the major said the monks who led the largest anti-government protests in Burma in almost 20 years were ''very peaceful''.

''Later, when I heard they were shot and killed and the armed forces used tear gas, I was really, really upset and thought the army should stand for their own people,'' he said.

He did not know which commanders had ordered troops to shoot or who had fired at the monks and demonstrators.

''I don't know if they will be punished by someone or not, but as a Buddhist, we believe that if you do those things, then bad karma will come back to them. That is our belief,'' he said.

He added he wanted Burma to be a ''free and prosperous country''.

''I don't mean a rich country, like in Europe, but a country where people can earn a proper income,'' he said.

''I want to see Burma peaceful and for people to live in freedom.''

Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said if the officer's entry into Thailand was considered under Thai law as seeking political asylum, he would be allowed to leave for a third country.

Thailand would follow the position of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) on Burma.

Thai human rights activists will appeal to incoming Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan today to boost the regional grouping's leading role in defusing the problem in Burma. They will petition him on the sidelines of a Chulalongkorn University seminar, asking that Asean support a resolution to be issued tomorrow by the UN Security Council.

Mr Surin, a former foreign minister, will take up the job next year.

In Chiang Mai, academics and activists urged Thailand and other Asean member countries, China and India to pressure the Burmese junta to respect human rights and return democracy to its people.

They called on the government to stop all forms of support for the junta, including loans, energy investment especially by PTT Plc, and the building of dams along the Salween river.

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