- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 3, 2004

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A Burmese political activist described yesterday how he was kidnapped and assaulted in Malaysia by Burmese intelligence agents on the day Burma’s Prime Minister Khin Nyunt visited Malaysia.

Minn Kyaw, 26, was freed late Tuesday, 13 hours after his car was forced off the road as he and his Malaysian wife, Yussra Shahril, were on their way to Kuala Lumpur International Airport to cover Gen. Nyunt’s arrival.

Asked if he recognized any of his assailants, Mr. Kyaw said he had seen three of them previously, adding: “I believe they are [Burmese] intelligence officers.”

The Burmese activist’s abduction came two days after the No. 2 diplomat at South Africa’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur was freed by kidnappers who held him for a week and extorted money from him by torture and threats of death.

Mr. Kyaw, whose abduction was apparently political, spoke to reporters and a commissioner with the government-backed Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam). After hearing his story, the commissioner, Hamdan Adnan, called on the government to investigate and prevent similar acts by foreign agents.

“Those people are breaking Malaysia’s law. Appropriate action must be taken. Surely, if nothing is done, it could become a trend,” he said.

Mr. Kyaw, who has United Nations refugee status in Malaysia, runs a Web site called Burma Media Link that supports detained Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi.

He said that after being hauled from his car and shoved into another vehicle, he was driven for about 30 minutes and then put in a shipping container. “I was the only one there, and I feared they were going to kill me,” he said.

After some time, a woman wearing a red dress and four other persons entered the container.

“The woman, who I believe is a Burmese, spoke very well in Burmese. She asked me about our movement in Malaysia,” he said.

Mr. Kyaw said he was also asked who was financing his activities and how much he was being paid every month.

“At this point, I was punched and assaulted when they were not happy with my answer,” he said. Mr. Kyaw said he was accused of being a spy and was again assaulted. “After their interrogation and intimidation, they covered my head. I feared for my life and thought that I would be murdered,” he said.

Mr. Kyaw sought protection from Suhakam against potential deportation and asked it to help resettle him in a third country because he feared for his safety in Malaysia.

Gen. Nyunt, who is head of Burma’s military intelligence as well as prime minister, received a red-carpet welcome and held talks with his Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on his brief visit to Kuala Lumpur, his first stop on a Southeast Asian tour amid fresh criticism of Rangoon’s approach to democratic reform.

About half a million Burmese live in Malaysia as foreign workers, asylum seekers and refugees.

In the diplomat’s kidnapping, the South African Embassy said Tuesday that Deputy High Commissioner Nicky Scholtz, 54, was forced into a car and “violently abducted” while walking along a street near his hotel in the center of Kuala Lumpur on May 23.

Mr. Scholtz, a bachelor who recently arrived in Malaysia, was the victim of “what appears to have been a random attack on the mistaken assumption that he was a solitary foreign tourist,” the embassy said.

He was “subsequently confined with the purpose of brutally extorting money from him — at times threatened with a knife, bound with wire cables, repeatedly tortured and on more than one occasion his captors threatened to kill him.

“These assaults resulted in at least two fractured ribs, temporary dislocation of his jaw, severe bruising on his back and bruising to his face, arms and legs.”

The kidnappers “extorted” the equivalent of $4,200 from him, the embassy said, without giving details. Media reports said some of the money was withdrawn on his credit cards.

He was released on Sunday under threat of death on condition that he would leave Malaysia without reporting his experiences, the embassy said.

The fact that he had not obeyed this instruction “justifies the high regard in which Mr. Scholtz is held by his employers, colleagues, family and friends,” the embassy said.

The high commission said it was working closely with Malaysian authorities on the abduction. At the time of Mr. Scholtz’s disappearance, Malaysian police had discounted the possibility he had been kidnapped.

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