Facebook Twitter

MILITANT STUDENTS SEIZE, HOLD BURMESE AIRLINER

SHARE MILITANT STUDENTS SEIZE, HOLD BURMESE AIRLINER

At least two Burmese students hijacked a Burmese airliner with 85 people aboard Friday and threatened to blow it up unless their country's military government frees all political prisoners and restores democracy.

Burmese ambassador Nyunt Swe went to the hijacking site and rejected the hijackers' demands, said a Thai navy spokesman, Lt. Somchai Kaewvibunphan.The students forced the Fokker 28 aircraft to land at a Thai military airfield and held the passengers hostage, said Col. Somchai Dhanarajata of Thailand's Supreme Command Joint Operations Center.

One hijacker appeared in the door of the plane with a hand grenade in his upraised fist. Hijackers later released 35 hostages, Kaewvibunphan said.

In a list given to Thai authorities, the hijackers demanded the release of top Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, an end to the curfew imposed by the military government and restoration of democracy in Burma.

They said they would detonate a bomb they had on board unless their demands were met by 11 p.m. (10 a.m. MDT), Kaewvibunphan said. The deadline passed, however, as Thai army negotiators talked with the hijackers.

Thai marines surrounded the aircraft of Burma's national airline, Myanmar Airways, and a U.S.-trained, anti-hijacking unit from the Thai air force was en route to the airfield, he said.

The plane was returning from Mergui to Burma's capital, Rangoon, when the hijackers ordered the pilot at gunpoint to divert to Thailand, Burma's neighbor, according to Burma's official news agency. The report said three hijackers were involved rather than two as reported by Somchai.

It was the first known hijack of a Burmese aircraft in recent decades.

Thailand has attempted to establish good relations with the military government in Rangoon and has made several deals to exploit Burma's abundant timber and fishery resources.