PUCL Bulletin, July 2003

Highjacking was an act to highlight cause of democracy in Myanmar
Dr. Y.P. Chhibbar, General Secretary, PUCL, has issued the following statement, 13 June 2003

Two Burmese students, Soe Myint, aged 23 years, and Htin Kyawoo, aged 22 years, were put in jail under a court order on November 12, 1990 on a charge of high-jacking a Thai Airliner carrying 205 passengers and 16 member crew to Kolkata (then Calcutta) and a case was registered against them. The two young boys staged this act for dramatically presenting their case for restoration of democracy in their country.

They carried no weapon but had soap cake covered with a handkerchief to look like a pistol.

The military junta of Burma (now Myanmar) had ousted the government of President U. Nu in 1962. In May 1990 the National League for Democracy won the election, bagging 60 percent vote. The military rulers did not hand over power to this party. The above-mentioned two young Burmese were registering their protest against the military regime.

These two students petitioned the President of India for political asylum on November 30, 1990 after the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and Citizens for Democracy (CFD) organised a press conference in Delhi. The President of the PUCL also wrote to Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao for granting them political asylum. The Prime Minister wrote back saying that the question of granting asylum would arise after the conclusion of the court case against them.

The West Bengal branch of the PUCL was requested by the National PUCL to fight the case of the two boys. It informed the National PUCL in November 1992 that progress in the case was very slow. The President of the PUCL, Justice Rajindar Sachar, thereafter, wrote to the Chief Minister of West Bengal pleading for withdrawal of the case. On this the West Bengal government approached the Government of India on December 29, 1994 for its approval for withdrawing the case registered under the Anti-high jacking Act and the Indian Penal Code. After that the case was withdrawn.

According to a section of the media the Government of India is under pressure from the military rulers of Myanmar to reopen the case. It may be mentioned here that the leader of the democracy movement in that country, Nobel Laureate Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, is again under house arrest. Earlier she was released from house arrest about a year ago, in May 2002. There was a mood of expectancy. The mood did not last long. Unconfirmed reports say that on May 30, when she was touring a town in north Myanmar there was an engineered skirmish between the members of her convoy and her supporters and hired goons of the junta. She was taken into "protective custody". Reports said that about 75 people had died in the skirmish. UN envoy Razil Ismail is reported to have succeeded in meeting her after running about for four days. He said that she was in good spirits.

India is the bastion of democracy in this part of the world. The government of India should consider any democratic movement in a dictatorship or a feudal kingdom as a potential ally. Terrorism is rooted in undemocratic situations. Unfriendly democratic neighbours are any day better than friendly undemocratic regimes.

The PUCL is strongly of the opinion that the Vajpayee government should not reopen the Thai Airlner highjacking case to curry favours with the military junta of Myanmar.


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