bbc-gunmen demand releases all political prisoners

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bbc-gunmen demand releases all political prisoners

Post by W. Kesavatana-Dohr » Sat, 02 Oct 1999 04:00:00

Friday, October 1, 1999 Published at 10:50 GMT 11:50 UK
World: Asia-Pacific

 gunmen demand releases all political prisoners

The Burmese opposition flag is hoisted onto the embassy's mast

Gunmen holding a number of diplomats, staff and more than a dozen foreigners
hostage at the Burmese embassy in Bangkok have issued a list of demands
calling on the Burmese Government to free all political prisoners.

In a facsimile statement to a TV station in the Thai capital, the group
calling itself the Vigorous Burmese Students Warriors said the military
government in Rangoon would be responsible for the consequences if it did
not accede to their demands.

The statement also demanded that the government enter into talks with the
Burmese opposition and convene a democratic parliament.

There are reports of a further demand for a helicopter capable of flying 20
people to the Thai-Burma border.

A local media organisation, AsiaWorks, contacted one of the hostages by
phone who said three Canadians, three Frenchmen, one American, one German
several Malaysians, Singaporeans and Thais were among those being held.

A short time later, two hostages, both Thai nationals were released, joining
a security guard who was allowed to go free earlier.

Gunfire heard

About a dozen armed men stormed into the embassy compound at about 1100
(0400GMT) seizing a number of diplomats and their families.

Witnesses said several bursts of automatic gunfire could be heard from
inside the compound as members of Thailand's elite anti-terrorist unit took
positions at the scene.

It is unclear whether anybody has been wounded.

Following another round of the gunfire, the attackers removed the Burmese
flag from the mast and replaced it with the yellow fighting peacock on a red
background - the symbol of Burma's democracy movement.

However, the main group representing Burmese students in exile says it has
no connection with the attack and does not condone it.

"We are not involved in this," Moe Thee Zun, Vice President of the All Burma
Students Democratic Front told the Reuters news agency. "We don't want to
support terrorist actions."

Holding fire

A Thai security police guard who was released by gunmen from the siege said
that the gunmen were holding 20 hostages.

Police and anti-terrorist unit officials say they have been ordered to hold
fire in order to allow negotiations to take place.

According to witnesses, the attackers were heavily armed, with AK-47 rifles,
20 hand grenades, as well as grenade launchers.

The released policeman said he believed the attackers were Burmese students.

There are hundreds of democracy and human rights activists, including exiled
students, working in Thailand to lobby for greater democracy in Burma, which
is run by a military government.

Students and ethnic groups in particular regularly demonstrate in front of
the Burmese embassy in Bangkok but their demonstrations are always peaceful.
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