Armed group storms Myanmar embassy in Bangkok

BANGKOK (AFP): A group of 12 men armed with grenades and AK-47 assault rifles stormed the embassy of Myanmar (Burma) in central Bangkok just before noon today. Some 20 embassy staff are believed to have been taken hostage or to be trapped in their accommodation in the compound. In a statement faxed from inside the embassy, the group said the hostages were unharmed, but that the attackers were willing to “die in action” unless their demands were met. The group called for the Myanmar military junta to enter into talks with the opposition National League for Democracy, headed by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, and to release all political prisoners. Prime Minister Chuan Leekapi earlier told reporters the armed group had demanded to see an exiled student leader being held at the Thai Interior Ministry’s detention center south of Bangkok. Witnesses said at least 10 shots had been heard from inside the compound and that the attackers had removed the Myanmar flag, replacing it with the red and gold fighting peacock banner of Myanmar’s pro-democracy student movement. A diplomat’s wife inside the embassy compound told friends in a telephone call that she feared for her safety. “One man with a gun is below our flat and I am stuck inside,” a friend quoted her as saying. “I am worried about my husband; I heard some shots before, but I only know what I can see on television,” she said. Police confirmed shots had been heard inside the building, but said that all the hostages were believed to be safe. The attackers missed the biggest potential prize – the Myanmar ambassador, Hla Maung. A spokesman for the military government in Rangoon said that he was not in the embassy compound when it was stormed. “He is working with the Thai authorities to secure the release of the hostages,” he said. Dozens of armed police wearing flack jackets cordoned off the section of Sathorn Road around the embassy and sniffer dogs were being used to search the area. According to witnesses, two men at the scene, both believed to be Burmese, have been detained for questioning.

Phuket News
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