Burmese Dissidents Hijack Plane, Demand End to Military Rule
CALCUTTA, India (AP) _ Two Burmese students carrying a fake bomb made out of soap hijacked a Thai jetliner to Calcutta on Saturday to dramatize demands for an end to military rule in Burma.
All of the 219 other passengers and crew aboard the plane were released gradually over a six-hour period before the hijackers gave themselves up to police. No one was hurt, police said.
The Thai Airways Airbus 300 was hijacked during a flight from Bangkok to Rangoon, the capital of Burma.
The two students told a news conference they were unarmed and carried only a fake bomb made out of bars of soap with protruding wires. A third Burmese student was supposed to participate in the hijacking, but the trio ran low on money in Bangkok and could only affort two plane tickets, they said.
The two, who identified themselves as Ye Marn and Ye Htink Yaw, were taken into police custody.
Police Inspector General S.J. Philip said charges were being comtemplated but had not been filed yet. He said the hijackers were unarmed but carried ″a reddish kind of container with wires.″
The hijackers said they only wanted to win greater publicity for pro- democracy activists struggling against Burma’s military rulers, who have refused to turn over power to civilian leaders elected in May.
″We have no desire to kill people,″ Ye Marn said. ″Our bomb was soap.″
Freed passengers described the blue jean-clad youths as gentle hijackers.
″These young men did not misbehave with us,″ said Hiromu Tsuchiguchi, 42, a travel agent from Osaka, Japan.
″There was a little tension at the beginning,″ said John Cogan, 46, a lawyer from Houston. ″The hijackers moved women and children to the front and the men to the back of the plane. When people moved, the hijacker would threaten to push the button (on the fake bomb). But he repeated several times that he meant no harm.″
Indian officials initially said there were three hijackers, because a communique from the hijackers had three signatures and was stamped in blood with three thumprints. The communique was released with some of the first passengers to be freed, who said the hijackers had hand grenades and guns.
Ye Marn told the news conference: ″We wanted to draw international attention and international support for our human rights and democracy (campaign). Our mission has been fulfilled.″
Ye Marn, 24, and Ye Htink Yaw, 22, said they were students at Rangoon University. They wore red headbands emblazoned in yellow with a fighting peacock, which they said was the emblem of pro-democracy student groups.
The hijackers called themselves ″The Justice and Liberation Warriors.″
The plane was was commandeered shortly before it was due to land at Rangoon, 650 miles southeast of Calcutta.
The hijackers had demanded the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest in Rangoon, and two Burmese students jailed in Thailand for hijacking a Burmese plane last year to dramatize demands for freedom from military rule.
Other demands included: an end to martial law, the release of all political prisoners, and cancellation of all military tribunals and the sentences imposed by them.
″We want to establish democratic rights in Burma,″ the hijackers’ letter said. ″For the past 25 years the people cried for liberty but the answer was bullets.″
Burma’s military government crushed a pro-democracy movement two years ago and continues to detain large numbers of people for political reasons.