Burma Refugee Admits War Crimes Past

Posted July 18th, 2011 at 12:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Australia's government says police will investigate claims by a Burmese refugee living in the country that he murdered dozens of political dissidents in Burma.

Htoo Htoo Han told Australian media that he executed 24 people and had an indirect involvement in about 100 other murders before coming to Australia as a refugee in 1996. He gave the Australian Associated Press the names of the 24. However, the AAP said it was not possible to independently verify his confession of having killed them.

He said he committed the crimes while working as an undercover agent for Burma's military government in the late 1980s.

Since coming to Australia, Htoo Htoo Han has campaigned against human rights abuses in his former country and has become a prominent figure in the Burmese refugee community. He has taken Australian citizenship.

Htoo Htoo Han, who is a father of three, said he came forward because he can no longer live with his guilt. He said he realizes that as a result of his admission he may go to prison.

Australia's opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman called for the matter to be referred to the International Criminal Court.

Australian police say they are considering what action to take.

Burma's government has long been considered one of the most repressive in the world. In 1988, it crushed a student democracy movement, killing or imprisoning hundreds, and forcing thousands into exile. It allowed elections in 1990, but when the opposition National League for Democracy won, it ignored the results and imprisoned most of the NLD's leaders. Others fled the country.

Last year, the military government allowed the first elections in 20 years, as part of what the military said was a move to civilian rule. But rights activists and many countries, including the United States, call the election a sham, saying it merely solidified miltary rule.