LONDON, June 7 (UPI) -- A Myanmar defector says Than Shwe, leader of the country's military junta, personally ordered the massacre of 81 unarmed civilians in 1998.
The defector, the former deputy chief of mission at the Myanmar embassy in Washington, told a radio audience that he witnessed two massacres of unarmed civilians by Myanmar soldiers who said they were acting on orders from "Aba Gyi," or the great father, Than Shwe, The Times of London reported Saturday.
The Times said Aung Lin Htut spoke for the first time since his 2005 defection about the actions of the Myanmar regime, which has come under intense scrutiny because of its moves to hinder to foreign aid to the victims of Cyclone Nargis. He reportedly said that reluctant soldiers were ordered to kill scores of unarmed men, women and children who had mistakenly wandered too close to a restricted military zone in 1998.
When the soldiers hesitated, they were told the orders came from Than Shwe himself. That was followed soon afterward by the killing of 22 unarmed Thai fishermen who had come too close to Christie Island in the Mergui Archipelago, the newspaper said.