The Assassin Who Couldn’t Kill
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The Assassin Who Couldn’t Kill

By KYAW ZWA MOE Friday, October 21, 2011

A young student intended to assassinate Khin Nyunt, who was then the head of Burma’s military intelligence service and the third-ranked general in the military junta.

One morning in April 1990, a 24-year-old university student using the pseudonym Wunna woke up early and solemnly worshiped in front of a small Buddha statue he kept in his room, acutely aware that he was probably doing so for the last time. When finished praying he stood up, loaded his 38 mm pistol and wedged it under his left arm pit. Then he donned a jacket to cover the weapon and walked out into the streets of Rangoon.

The young student’s intention that day was to assassinate Khin Nyunt, who was then the head of Burma’s military intelligence service (MI) and the third-ranked general in the military junta, which had taken power in a 1988 coup and simultaneously crushed a nationwide pro-democracy uprising.

Khin Nyunt was regarded as the most powerful general in the regime—the one who really called the shots—despite the fact that Snr-Gen Saw Maung and his deputy, then Gen Than Shwe, were officially ranked above him. The spy chief’s intelligence apparatus was notorious for cracking down on pro-democracy activists, who it routinely arrested, tortured and threw into prison, so Wunna believed that killing Khin Nyunt would advance the cause of democracy in Burma and be of great benefit to the country’s oppressed people.

On the day of the intended assassination, Wunna was invited to attend a religious ceremony at the house of a relative of Khin Nyunt. He had been told that the intelligence chief would be present as well, so with the pistol concealed under his jacket on the hot sunny day, Wunna first took a bus and then walked the remaining distance to the ceremony, where his intended victim would be within shooting range.

As he had planned, Wunna arrived before Khin Nyunt and surveyed the house. The crowd attending the ceremony stirred and the hosts bustled about as Khin Nyunt arrived, and when the out-of-uniform MI chief was escorted to a reserved table and served a glass of lemon juice, Wunna found himself standing only eight feet away from his target.

All Wunna needed to do was take out his pistol, aim at Khin Nyunt’s left chest and pull the trigger—the very act he had rehearsed hundreds of times while taking target practice on the Thai-Burma border in hopes of getting close enough to the top general to take a shot. But he knew that the second he assassinated the spy chief, he would in turn be killed by the powerful man’s coterie of bodyguards.

Wunna reminded himself that his mission was for the good of the Burmese people, and although his gut was filled with fear and his body trembling, he desperately tried to gather himself and summon the necessary courage and commitment. At the same time, however, his mind was swimming with thoughts and images of his beloved family and the consequences that would rain down on them after he killed a top brass general.

As Wunna hesitated, Khin Nyunt stood up and walked away. The would-be-assassin had lost his chance and knew he would probably never have another. He realized then and there, however, that even if he did get another shot at the general, he was not professional enough to carry out the job.

He was also not seasoned enough to cover his tracks—after all, he didn’t think he would survive once he pulled the trigger—and a few months later he was arrested by MI. Wunna and two of his colleagues were charged with high treason, given the death sentence and sent to Insein Prison. Then in 1993, his death sentence was reduced to 20 years behind bars.

Wunna was not the only person who attempted to assassinate regime leaders following the 1988 coup and crackdown on pro-democracy activists. Maj Ko Ko Naing of the Karen National Union, an ethnic armed group, exploded bombs at Rangoon’s City Hall and the Thanlyin Oil Refinery on July 7, 1989, the anniversary of the day that late dictator Ne Win ordered the demolition of Rangoon University’s historic student union. Ko Ko Naing was later arrested and sentenced to death after leading a separate assassination team to kill the top military leaders.

Then in early 1990, the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front also plotted to kill top military leaders in an operation named “Hawk,” and the following year ABSDF member Min Han and his colleagues planned once again to do in a separate operation. Both times, however, the conspirators were arrested and sentenced either to death or to lengthy terms of imprisonment. Min Han was released on Oct. 12, when the current Burmese government granted amnesty to certain prisoners and political prisoners.

These attempts to kill top leaders in the aftermath of the 1988 crackdown were not isolated events in Burma. In fact, the assassination and attempted assassination of political leaders—both those that have ruthlessly oppressed the people and those that have been well-respected—is part of the fabric of the country’s modern history.

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Myanmar Patriots Wrote:
" stand at the court of law." ? WHAT COURT OF LAW? I HAVE SEEN THE WHOLE DOCUMENTARY. I know the whole truth.

In any case, who would haul any Englishman BEFORE court FOR KILLING AungSan? Don't be naive.

Don't make a quick check. Make a very thorough check and infer!

Does anyone really think Prince Kanaung was assassinated by Burmese? Think again.
Burmese killed Burmese. It does not preclude English killing AungSan. Get the logic?

"BTW, the older the wine is the better and the more expensive."???? Have you been drinking wine?

Mogyothwar Wrote:
Myanmar Patriots,

When I make a quick check the so called "new evidence" suggesting British involvement are not the proofs to stand at the court of law.

We know and we are seeing with our own eyes nations leaders were killed. for one reason or the other. We also know who are behind these killings. But no proofs beyond reasonable doubts to stand the trial, or tom have justifies conviction.

BTW, the older the wine is the better and the more expensive.

Myanmar Patriots Wrote:
mogyothwar Wrote:

"Further investigation is also needed on "who killed Aung San"" WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?

Check out "Fergal Keane examines new evidence suggesting British involvement in the killing of Burmese nationalist leader Aung San in 1947."

Shame Wrote:
If he has no guts to carry his assassination attempt, why continue bragging that best way is to wipe the military thugs. He's a real coward with big mouth. Chicken !

Myanmar Patriots Wrote:

We are getting there. Ashin Than-Shwe has provided the bottle that never existed before. We get there without assassinations or collateral damage - thousands dying from bombing.

Be forgiving to yourself. Regardless of our failings in many respects, we, Myanmars, have brought about the change peacefully, by ourselves, free from outsiders' interference. We are no Arabs. We are Buddhists!

New wine is filling the bottle. Just keep adding new wine!

SuSu Wrote:
>> Nyi Nyi said, "It is never good to see any kind of assassination to anyone. We don't want to see this happening in Burmese politics."<<

Sadly, we did have such cowardly assassinations in Burmese politics since the eve of the country's Independence. That is the very reason why, our country is in such a mess. Good guys are reluctant to perform such "dirty, cowardly acts," but the Bad guys have no moral values and readily commit these CRIMES. What lersay said was right, "With Brutal leaders, if you do not catch them, they are always there to catch you without mercy and consideration."

mogyothwar Wrote:
Sell that story to 'Hollywood'.

Actor Bruce Willis, Angelina Jolie may be interested.

Anyway, this news is the proof of the intention of ABSDF or KNU. We need further more proofs of who are behind ABSDF and Kayins.

Further investigation is also needed on "who killed Aung San"

Leaders of nations who disagree with West were and are being assassinated or lynch by so called their own people.

Nyi Nyi Wrote:
It's good he did not carry out the assassination. It is never good to see any kind of assassination to anyone. We don't want to see this happening in Burmese politics.

KML Wrote:
I would like to rephrase those two statements….

“there was no other general who was cunning and clever enough to continue to rule the country”

“there was no other general who was cunning and stupid enough to continue to rule the country”

“Khin Nyunt’s disappearance from the junta would have lead to a better political landscape for the opposition groups to negotiate with the weakened regime”

“with the optimistic and realistic senior military officers in the regime”

lersay Wrote:
With Brutal leaders, if you do not catch them, they are always there to catch you without mercy and consideration.

Kyaw Wrote:
These guys poorly trained and not a combatant types at all. The present Government Military Operation and use of the heavy weapons in the Kachin will create effective terrorism very soon. The Kachins have already used the suicide attackers to destroy the 120 mm guns.

Moe Aung Wrote:
Generally speaking assassinations carried out by the ruling class tend to achieve a near 100% success for obvious reasons compared with the attempts made by student radicals and revolutionaries. Capt. Ohn Kyaw Myint had a real chance but blew it by involving too many co-conspirators.

Whilst leaders do play a crucial role in both opposition political movements and govts, their elimination does not necessarily result in a collapse of the party or a govt, only a temporary setback which has a greater impact in the case of a popular movement. Hence ruling classes may use assassination as a last resort indicative of ideological bankruptcy and desperation on their part.

Frustration and desperation also drive the 'terrorist assassin' but a successful attempt tends to have little or no impact on entrenched power.

Popular struggle must rely on a mass organization, mass action, a general strike and ultimately a well prepared popular uprising where peaceful methods fail.


Mya Kyar Phyu Wrote:
“I don’t care if killing is a sin or is unlawful if it brings good to my country,” he said. “But I just couldn’t do it.” <<< A true ( almost pathological level of weak-minded) nature of a Burmese including me if I've ever been out in the same situation like him. If Gadhafi had been born in Burma, he would have been much more luckier!

Myanmar Patriots Wrote:
Very interesting.

Billy Mackenzie Wrote:
The title of this article would be more appropriate with THE ASSASSIN WHO DARE NOT KILL, rather than who can't.. He could if he had the guts.

Awng Wrote:
What evidence do you have to write like this?
KIA doesn't have such history. According to the eye witness, no wonder, it was Burmese Military Government troops.

"While there were several other assassination plots against Burma’s top military rulers between the time Ne Win took power in 1962 and resigned in 1988, most failed. The highest ranking military officer who was killed during that period was Brig-Gen L-Khun Hpang, an ethnic Kachin and the powerful commander of the Northern Command, who was assassinated in 1985 by the Kachin Independence Army, an ethnic armed group."

Min Nway Wrote:
It is obviously proved that Non Violent means to get True Democracy was not helpful in the past.

We have seen recently, Gaddafi
did not change his attitude until he was killed.

Non-violent means prolonged our suffering.
Decades have changed and it is unwise if we
still apply old method nowadays to achieve
True Democracy.

Maung Maung Wrote:
Assassination of political or military leaders will not solve any problem, but will compound it as was shown by the outbreak of the world war I and continuation of the KNU underground after Saw Ba U Gyi's death and the similar continuity of the CPB after the death of its chairman Thakhin Than Tun. I'm not sure assassination of General Khin Nyunt in the 1990 would have made much difference to the SLORC or SPDC by looking at the more oppressive nature of the SPDC after Khin Nyunt's dismissal. I'm all for non-violent ways for change in Burma.

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