NINE members of a death squad run by the Burmese military regime in the late 1980s are living in Australia, according to a refugee who claims to have commanded the squad.
The man, Htoo Htoo Han, has claimed to have personally killed at least 24 opponents of the murderous regime in the wake of the 1988 pro-democracy uprising while posing as a student activist and to have been involved in the deaths of up to 150 more people.
Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland yesterday wrote to the Australian Federal Police asking them to investigate the claims.
Yesterday Mr Han told The Age that eight of the men who were under his command while he ran the military intelligence assassination squad are living in various states of Australia, but they refused to join him in publicly confessing their crimes.
”I was officer, I have nine people from my team here [in Australia] but I cannot name them. There are two in Sydney, four in Melbourne, one in Perth, one in Queensland. Everybody making money, have family, happy life – but for me not happy life,” Mr Han said.
”They can come out like I did, and be free of the nightmare, but people don’t want to come out because they have families, children.”
Mr Han, who came to Australia in 1996 from Thailand and is now a citizen, said the men had contacted him after he arrived in Australia to tell him they had also gained asylum. However, they stopped speaking to him after he suggested they should publicly confess to the killings.
The 44-year-old said he had not spoken to any of the nine men since he publicly confessed this week to the murders, which he said have haunted him for 23 years.
It is impossible to conclusively verify Mr Han’s claims – and Burmese dissidents in Australia have questioned them – but he said earlier this week that he had posed as a student activist during and after the 1988 uprising in order to identify the ”masterminds” of the opposition movement.
The activists were then kidnapped by men under Mr Han’s command and brought to him. He shot them in the head, their bodies were burnt and their ashes thrown in a river.
Mr Han, a father of three living in Brisbane, said he had confessed to the killings because his conscience had tortured him for 23 years and because he did not want his crimes to become public when his children are older.
His claims are more shocking because he has been a high-profile member of the Burmese exile community in Australia and has campaigned publicly for regime change in the impoverished south-east Asian nation.
The Burma Campaign Australia, which represents pro-democracy supporters in Australia, said in a statement that it welcomed the police investigation, while cautioning that the claims could not be taken as verbatim without further evidence.
”What is clear is that war crimes and crimes against humanity are widespread in Burma and there is an urgent need for a UN commission of inquiry,” it said.
Acquaintances of a Burmese man in Australia who last week outed himself as being responsible for the execution of 24 people whilst working as an undercover agent during the 1988 uprising in Burma say there is reason to doubt his claims.
Htoo Htoo Han’s declaration, first reported by Australian press on 18 July, has grabbed news headlines across the Asia-Pacific. The 44-year-old, who fled to Australia in 1996 and now lives in Brisbane, says he was also complicit in the murder of around 100 others during the brutal crackdown on student protestors 23 years ago.
“I did it, I am a war criminal,” he told reporters. He has also claimed that other perpetrators of severe human rights abuses in Burma during the uprising are living in Australia.
But those claims must be closely scrutinised, according to Zeya Oo, who lives in Melbourne and describes himself as a “long-time friend” of Htoo Htoo Han, now an Australian citizen.
He said that while Htoo Htoo Han was known to have had connections with Burmese intelligence in Bangkok, and was an active participant in student movements, his claims to have executed people are “completely impossible”.
“He has always been occupied by [conspiratorial] ideas. He had been telling other Burmese people about this idea [to claim himself a war criminal] in order to focus media attention on Burma,” said Zeya Oo. “He thought this could lead [former Burmese dictator] Than Shwe to be indicted by the International Criminal Court.”
As in the case of Htoo Htoo Han, Zeya Oo’s claims cannot be independently verified. But a number of Burmese community and activist groups in Australia are believed to have distanced themselves from Htoo Htoo Han, while rumours have circulated about a gambling addiction and mental health problems.
“As far as I know, he has a certificate from a psychiatric hospital [certifying that he has mental health problems] and he’s being monitored and is surviving on disability benefits from the government,” said Zeya Oo.
Several people have also said that he spent time in prison in Burma, likely in the early 1990s. He had lived in Bangkok, where Zeya Oo says the two of them joined the exiled All Burma Basic Education Students’ Union, of which Htoo Htoo Han later became a leader.
The BBC’s Burmese website carried a report yesterday quoting an unnamed source in Brisbane who said that he was in prison at the same time as Htoo Htoo Han, and who also doubted his claims, although did not expand on why.
Aung Linn Htut, a former senior-ranking Burmese intelligence officer who defected in 2005 and now lives in the US, was also quoted by the BBC as saying that it was not customary for the Burmese army to assign individuals to carry out executions of civilians, likely alluding to the impression Htoo Htoo Han gave that he was operating alone.
The Australian government has so far not commented on the matter, but police are said to be considering how to investigating his claims.
It comes at a time when calls are mounting for the UN to initiate a probe into whether war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Burma.
ၾသစေၾတးလ်ႏုိင္ငံတြင္ ေရာက္ရိွေနသူ ကုိထူးထူးဟန္ (ဓာတ္ပုံ – AAP သတင္းဌာန)
၁၉၈၇ မွ ၁၉၉၂ အတြင္း ျမန္မာ စစ္ေထာက္လွမ္းေရး တပ္ဖဲြ႔ အရာရွိတဦး အျဖစ္ တာ၀န္ယူခဲ့ၿပီး ထုိသတ္ျဖတ္မႈမ်ား က်ဴးလြန္ခ့ဲသည္ဟူေသာ သူ၏ ေျပာဆုိခ်က္ကုိ ႏုိင္ငံတကာ သတင္းဌာနမ်ားက ေဖာ္ျပလ်က္ရိွသည္။
ကုိထူးထူးဟန္သည္ ၁၉၉၀ ၀န္းက်င္က အင္းစိန္၊ သာယာ၀တီေထာင္တုိ႔တြင္ အထိန္းသိမ္းခံရဖူးေၾကာင္း ႏုိင္ငံေရး အက်ဥ္းသားမ်ား ကူညီ ေစာင့္ေရွာက္ေရး အသင္းမွ ကုိတိတ္ႏုိင္က ဧရာ၀တီကုိ ေျပာသည္။
“အခုလုိ သူေျပာတဲ့ အခ်က္ေတြက မျဖစ္ႏုိင္ပါဘူး၊ ေထာင္ထဲမွာ က်ေနာ္နဲ႔ ေတြ႔တုန္းက သူ႔ အသက္က ၁၆ ႏွစ္ပဲ ရွိေသးတယ္” ဟု ကုိတိတ္ႏုိင္က ရွင္းျပသည္။
ကုိထူးထူးဟန္သည္ ေထာင္တြင္း ႏိွပ္စက္ညွဥ္းပန္းမႈမ်ားေၾကာင့္ စိတ္ပုိင္းဆုိင္ရာ ခ်ိဳ႕ယြင္းမႈ ျဖစ္ခဲ့ဖူးသည္ဟု သူက ဆုိသည္။
ၾသစေၾတးလ်ရိွ ျမန္မာ့အေရးလႈပ္ရွားသူမ်ားကမူ ကုိထူးထူးဟန္၏ မဆင္မျခင္ ေျပာဆုိမႈသည္ ၾသစေၾတးလ်တြင္ အေျခခ်ရန္ ေစာင္ဆုိင္းေနသည့္ ျမန္မာဒုကၡသည္မ်ားကုိ ထိခုိက္ေစႏုိင္သည္ဟု ယူဆသည္။
“သူ လူ ၁၀၀ ေလာက္ ဗမာျပည္မွာ သတ္ခဲ့တယ္ ဆုိတဲ့ကိစၥက ယုံဖုိ႔ အရမ္းခက္တယ္” ဟု ၾသစေၾတးလ်တြင္ ျမန္မာ့ ဒီမုိကေရစီ အေရး လႈပ္ရွားေနသည့္ ေဒါက္တာျမင့္ခ်ိဳက ေကာက္ခ်က္ခ်သည္။
ကုိထူးထူးဟန္သည္ ၁၉၉၆ ခုႏွစ္က ၾသစေၾတးလ်တြင္ ခုိလႈံခြင့္ ယူခ့ဲသည္ဟု သိရသည္။ ေနာက္ပုိင္းတြင္ ၾသစေတးလ်ႏုိင္ငံသား အျဖစ္ ခံယူလုိက္ေၾကာင္း၊ ဇနီးသည္ႏွင့္ သားသမီး ၃ ဦး ရိွေၾကာင္း သတင္းမ်ားက ဆုိသည္။
လူ အေယာက္ ၁၀၀ သတ္ျဖတ္ခဲ့သည္ဟူေသာ ေျပာဆုိခ်က္မ်ားကုိ ဇနီးသည္ကပင္ ယုံၾကည္ျခင္းမရိွဟု သူက ေျပာဆုိေၾကာင္း The Australian သတင္းစာ အင္တာနက္ စာမ်က္ႏွာတြင္ ယေန႔ ရက္စဲြျဖင့္ ေဖာ္ျပထားသည္။
ျမန္မာစစ္ေထာက္လွမ္းေရး တပ္ဖဲြ႔သည္ အတုိက္အခံ ႏုိင္ငံေရးသမားမ်ားကုိ သတ္ျဖတ္ရန္ တဦးတေယာက္ကုိ သီးျခား တာ၀န္ေပးခ့ဲဖူးျခင္း မရွိဟု စစ္ေထာက္လွမ္းေရး အရာရိွေဟာင္း ဦးေအာင္လင္းထြဋ္က ဘီဘီစီ သတင္းဌာနကုိ တနလၤာေန႔က ရွင္းျပသည္။
ကုိထူးထူးဟန္၏ ေျပာဆုိခ်က္မ်ားႏွင့္ ပတ္သက္ၿပီး ၾသစေၾတးလ် အာဏာပုိင္မ်ားက စုံစမ္း စစ္ေဆးေနေၾကာင္း သိရသည္။
ကုိထူးထူးဟန္က သူ႔ကုိယ္သူ စစ္ရာဇာ၀တ္ေကာင္ ဟု ေျပာဆုိေၾကာင္း၊ တခ်ိန္က ေက်ာင္းသား အဖြဲ႔အစည္းမ်ားအတြင္း ထုိးေဖာက္၀င္ေရာက္ၿပီး ထင္ရွားသည့္ ႏုိင္ငံေရးသမားမ်ား၊ တက္ႂကြလႈပ္ရွားသူမ်ားကုိ ပစ္မွတ္ထား တုိက္ခုိက္ခဲ့ေၾကာင္း ဟူေသာ ေျပာဆုိခ်က္တုိ႔ကုိ ႏုိင္ငံတကာ သတင္းမ်ားတြင္ ေဖာ္ျပထားၾကသည္။
သတ္ျဖတ္ရာတြင္ ႏိွပ္စက္ညွဥ္းပမ္းမႈ မျပဳလုပ္ဘဲ ဦးေခါင္းကုိ ပစ္သတ္သည့္ နည္းကုိသာ သုံးခဲ့ေၾကာင္း၊ ႏွစ္ေပါင္း ၂၀ ခန္႔က က်ဴးလြန္ခဲ့သည့္ လုပ္ရပ္ အတြက္ ေသဆုံးခဲ့သူတုိ႔၏ မိဘမ်ား၊ ျမန္မာ ျပည္သူမ်ားကုိ ၀မ္းနည္းစကား ေျပာခ်င္ေၾကာင္း ဟူေသာ ေျပာဆုိခ်က္မ်ားကုိ သူ၏ သတင္း စတင္ ေဖာ္ျပသည့္ AAP သတင္းတပုဒ္တြင္ ေရးသားထားသည္။
ၾသစေတးလ် ျပည္ေထာင္စု ေရွ႕ေနခ်ဳပ္ ေရာဘတ္မကၠလန္က “ေတာ္ေတာ္ကုိ ဆုိးရြားတဲ့ အျဖစ္အပ်က္တခုပဲ” ဟု ေကာက္ခ်က္ခ် ေျပာဆုိလုိက္သည္။
ဘီဘီစီ သတင္းဌာနႏွင့္ ဆက္သြယ္ ေမးျမန္းခန္း တခုတြင္ သူက ၁၉၈၇ ခုႏွစ္တြင္ ေမၿမိဳ႕ စစ္တကၠသုိလ္မွ ေရႊဓားဆု ခ်ီးျမွင့္ခံရဖူးေၾကာင္း၊ စစ္ေထာက္လွမ္းေရး အမွတ္ ၆ တြင္ တာ၀န္ယူဖူးေၾကာင္း၊ ၁၉၉၃ တြင္ ထုိင္းႏုိင္ငံသုိ႔ ေရာက္ရွိသြားၿပီး ျမန္မာ့ ဒီမုိကေရစီ အေရး လႈပ္ရွားသူမ်ားကုိ စာနာသည့္ အတြက္ ေထာက္လွမ္းေရး တာ၀န္ မယူေတာ့ေၾကာင္း ေျပာဆုိခ့ဲသည္။