ABSDF Visits Burma to Investigate Its Killings of ‘Spies’ in 1990s

An archive photo showing ABSDF members in the early 1990s accused of being ‘spies’ for Burma’s then military regime.

RANGOON—The All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF) said it is carrying out an internal investigation into what happened in the organization 20 years ago, when 35 of its members were killed on accusations of being spies for Burma’s military government.

Kyaw Kyaw Lin, the coordinator of the ABSDF’s Truth and Justice Commission, said the team was meeting with family members of the victims and ABSDF members who managed to escape after being accused of spying for the government.

“We have interviewed six members so far,” said Kyaw Kyaw Lin. “As for families, we have already visited Ma Nge’s mother.” Nan Aung Htwe Kyi, also known as Ma Nge, was an ABSDF member who managed to escape after being arrested and interrogated by the group.

“What had happened in their camp in Kachin State has had a lot of mental impact on them, so repeatedly speaking about it really hurts them,” Kyaw Kyaw Lin said, referring to some of the interrogation and killings that were carried out in Kachin State, where the ABSDF’s Northern Region was based.

The ABSDF was founded in November 1988 as an armed rebel group by students and youths who left their homes for Burma’s border areas, following the military regime’s brutal crackdown on the pro-democracy uprising in September that same year.

Thirty-five ABSDF members died in custody in 1991-92, some of them executed as “enemy spies” and others tortured to death while undergoing  interrogation. In February 1992, 15 members were killed in the jungles on Kachin State under shadowy circumstances, and another 80 members were detained on similar charges in the early 1990s.

Questions have long surrounded the allegations against the victims and some have suggested that the killings were motivated by internal power struggles within the organization.

Among those killed in Kachin State in 1992 was Htun Aung Kyaw, the chairman of ABSDF’s Northern Region. During the 1988 democracy movement, he was a prominent student leader in Mandalay, Burma’s second largest city, and vice-chairman of the All Burma Federation of Students Union.

On May 17, Htun Aung Kyaw’s family opened a criminal case at No. 8 Police Station in Mandalay Division in order start a police investigation into his killing and to take legal action against the perpetrators.

In January 2012, the ABSDF formed the Truth and Justice Commission to investigate the killings, in particular in its Northern Region. The group is currently engaged in peace negotiations with the government and Naypyidaw has allowed members of the group, who still remain in exile, to visit Burma for three weeks to carry out its investigation.

The ABSDF commission will travel to Mon State and Rangoon and Mandalay divisions to interview families of the victims and former members who escaped interrogation.

Kyaw Kyaw Lin said the commission would discuss the background of the accused ABSDF members, the supposed evidence for the accusations made against them, and the health and psychological impacts that the members and their families have suffered as a result of the events.

Former ABSDF members currently resettled in foreign countries will also be contacted, while ABSDF documents being kept in an archive center in the Netherlands might also be studied for more information.

Kyaw Kyaw Lin said the group also planned to consult the victims and their families about how the ABSDF can address some of the impacts they suffered. The group has already issued a public apology for the events of the early 1990s.

“One thing I’d like to add is that this report is not the end of the story. The ABSDF’s northern region case has yet to be finished after the publication of the report. It will be just the beginning of the truth and justice we like to focus on,” he said.

11 Responses to ABSDF Visits Burma to Investigate Its Killings of ‘Spies’ in 1990s

  1. pure madness happened there. mankind at its most evil. all in the name of “freedom”…

  2. Capital punishment is the worst kind of punishment human beings must handle it in different way. Torture to death also is unacceptable. ABSDF is photocopy of military rule. In the name of democracy, killing was practiced. That’s why ABSDF goes nowhere.

  3. Right thing to do Instead of Dennie or blundering.Every one who responsibility must hold the accountable and bring to justice. We can not cover up the history ,must clean ourselves.

  4. Yes, justices should be brought to the victims who purely believe in their movement. Wait? Are we missing something here about the justice? Can ABSDF and Daw Su find someone who is responsible for the killing of 1988 students, monks killings in 2007 and the nargis victims. What about the responsibility for the killing in the ethnic areas?

    • Well, the answer is,if you want to be better than bad guys, do not act like bad guys.you must show yourselves.This senseless murder does not represent the ABSDF struggle for freedom and unknown heros who gave up their life for batter future of Burma.

  5. Whatever the Burmese think about themselves, there is a streak of “random brutality and violence” that seems to run through the national psyche that is not restricted to any particular group. It’s hard to admit it but many incidents in Burma, including the recent “sectarian violence’ points out to that national “disease”
    Stop killing for “revenge” or “punishment”.

  6. My friend, a student leader of Moulmein college, was killed by Thakin Than Tun’s communist party in Pago Yoma because he was accused to be a govenrment (Ne Win’s) spy. You can read about him in “Last Days of Thakin Than Tun’ Book. And many more prominant communist leadres and student leaders were also accused as the spies and were killed. Should we form a committee like True and Justic Commission to investigate the killing?

  7. The rules relating to spies are set out in the 1907 Hague convention:

    Convention (IV) respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land



    Art. 29. A person can only be considered a spy when, acting clandestinely or on false pretences, he obtains or endeavours to obtain information in the zone of operations of a belligerent, with the intention of communicating it to the hostile party.

    Art. 30. A spy taken in the act shall not be punished without previous trial.

  8. Ok,before the invention of flu vaccine,a lot of people die by flu. So,why today people go to get flu vaccine instead of let to die like old day.Our nation deserve the better future.Also a lot of heroes gave up their life for the name of freedom in front of my eye. Their secrified should not in vain. If we do not clean ourselves,we are not the different than others.

  9. @andaman: It’s called “bad blood”.

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