A Decade Later, Victims Still Seeking Depayin Massacre Justice

By Zarni Mann 31 May 2013

Victims and activists urged the government to reveal the truth and expose the mastermind behind the Depayin massacre as they commemorated the 10-year anniversary of the slaughter at a memorial service this week in the village of Kyee, site of the killings in Sagaing Division.

“This is not to take revenge but to make sure to set a good example of the rule of law,” Hla Oo, who was seriously injured in the massacre, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.

The Depayin massacre took place in Kyee village, on the outskirts of Depayin Township in central Burma, on May 30, 2003. It was carried out by a pro-junta armed group consisting of members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) and the Swan Ah Shin militia, who blocked the road to attack a convoy of vehicles carrying National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters.

An exact Depayin death toll is the subject of considerable disagreement. The government’s official reckoning is that no more than five people were killed in the attack, but regime dissidents claim that about 70 people lost their lives that day.

“Myself, I got a head injury and my arms were broken. There are many others who had their ribs, arms and legs broken. We were sent to prisons in Shwe Bo, Ye-Oo and Khandi, without taking care of our injuries. Our injuries were not well treated while we were in prison either,” Hla Oo said.

Suu Kyi, her driver and some other NLD members managed to escape the massacre, but were later arrested as they entered Ye-Oo and imprisoned there. Suu Kyi was later sent back to Rangoon and placed under house arrest.

Speculation has long pegged Soe Win, who served as Secretary-2 of the former military junta at that time, as the mastermind behind the Depayin massacre. Some said that he ordered the attack without the knowledge of Khin Nyunt, who served as Secretary-1 during that time. Soe Win died in 2007.

Despite her brush with death that day, Suu Kyi has said that she is willing to let bygones be bygones with regard to the incident in Depayin.

But other victims, as evidenced by Thursday’s turnout, are still seeking justice a decade later.

“We just want to reveal the truth in order to prevent a massacre like this in the future by taking lessons from what happened 10 years ago. We can forgive but can’t forget how we have been ill-treated by the regime,” Hla Oo said.