New Delhi, March 13: This hijacking case has virtually been resurrected from the grave.
Twelve years ago, Soe Myint and Htin Kyawoo, pro-democracy student activists in Myanmar had hijacked a Thai Airways Bangkok-Yangon flight. Desperate to catch the attention of the world to the gross violations of democracy in their country, the duo diverted the flight to Calcutta airport armed with nothing but a stuffed toy.
Myint and Kyawoo were arrested and later released on bail. Neither the Centre nor the West Bengal government thought it fit to press for trial. Thai Airways also let them off.
However, giving a fresh twist to the case, charges were framed against Myint in January this year. The trial is scheduled to begin next month and, if indicted, he will face life imprisonment.
“The governments at the Centre and in the state assured me the case will be dropped,” Myint said in an informal interaction with the media today.
In another strange move, charges have not been framed against Kyawoo, who left India and is now settled in Europe.
Since 1998, Myint has been living in Delhi and running Mizzima, an Internet news service set up by Burmese pro-democracy students in exile. “There were several opportunities for me to go abroad. But I decided to stay on,” Myint said.
Defence minister George Fernandes — whose house has been a refuge for many pro-democracy Burmese students — has, however, assured Myint that he would speak to the home minister and try to withdraw the case.
“So far, we have not heard from him,” said Myint. Hoping to mobilise political support in his favour, Myint has even started speaking to MPs cutting across political lines.
Myint believes the military dispensation in Myanmar has exerted pressure on the Indian government to revive the case. At the time of the hijack, neither the flight crew nor the passengers on board felt themselves under any kind of threat. “We told the passengers and the crew that our objective was to draw attention to the plight of Aung San Suu Kyi, who won 81 per cent of seats in the Burmese government. But the military regime refused to hand over power,” he added.
The passengers, Myint said, were extremely sympathetic as was then Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu. He met the Burmese students at Writers’ Buildings. The special CID superintendent, who was the first to meet the hijackers, said: “I was literally bowled over by their pleas for restoration of human and democratic rights in Burma.”
“Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar, who then ruled at the Centre, was sympathetic to our cause,” Myint said. “So was Rajiv Gandhi, with whose support Chandra Shekhar was running the government,” he added.