View Source

Myanmar’s Ambassador to the U.K. Was Locked Out of London Embassy

LONDON — Myanmar’s ambassador to Britain, Kyaw Zwar Minn, was locked out of his own embassy on Wednesday, apparently in retaliation for criticizing the country’s military, which seized power in February and has since launched a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

In a statement, Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said that it was “seeking further information” following the episode, which drew a small crowd of protesters outside the Myanmar Embassy in London.

“I have been locked out,” the ambassador told the Reuters news agency, calling the actions of diplomatic colleagues who prevented him from entering the building as a “kind of coup in the middle of London.”

Diplomatic sources confirmed that he had been excluded from the embassy and British media reports suggested that the ambassador’s deputy, Chit Win, had taken charge of the building with the help of a military attaché.

no longer represented the country.

On Wednesday, London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed that a protest had taken place outside the Myanmar Embassy and that officers were on the scene to keep order, but said that no arrests had been made.

View Source

Myanmar Envoy Who Critiqued Coup Is Locked Out of London Embassy

LONDON — Myanmar’s ambassador to Britain, Kyaw Zwar Minn, was locked out of his own embassy on Wednesday, apparently in retaliation for criticizing the country’s military, which seized power in February and has since launched a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

In a statement, Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said that it was a “seeking further information” following the episode, which drew a small crowd of protesters outside the Myanmar Embassy in London.

“I have been locked out,” the ambassador told the Reuters news agency, calling the actions of diplomatic colleagues who prevented him from entering the building as a “kind of coup in the middle of London.”

Diplomatic sources confirmed that he had been excluded from the embassy and British media reports suggested that the ambassador’s deputy, Chit Win, had taken charge of the building with the help of a military attaché.

no longer represented the country.

On Wednesday, London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed that a protest had taken place outside the Myanmar Embassy and that officers were on the scene to keep order, but said that no arrests had been made.

View Source

Myanmar’s Military Has Killed Over 40 Children Since the Coup. Here’s One Child’s Story.

No one quite knew why the soldiers wandered into Aye Myat Thu’s neighborhood of neat wooden houses, each painted a cheerful hue, sprays of bougainvillea adding more splashes of color.

Mr. Soe Oo took a coconut from the family palm tree and hacked at it carefully, lest the sweet water spill out. Sounds like the pop of firecrackers echoed in the hazy heat.

Aye Myat Thu grabbed her slice of coconut. The popping noises drew her down the path from her house. Past the trees, a camouflaged presence stalked, according to other neighborhood residents. No one in the family saw him.

The hole from the bullet was so small that Mr. Soe Oo said he couldn’t understand how it had extinguished the life of his daughter, another random victim of a trigger-happy military.

“She just fell down,” he said. “And she died.”

The funeral was the next day. Buddhist monks chanted, and mourners gathered around the coffin, raising their hands in the three-fingered salute from “The Hunger Games” that has become the protesters’ symbol of defiance. Garlands of jasmine framed the girl’s face, the bullet still lodged somewhere in her skull.

“I want to tear off the soldier’s skin as revenge,” said U Thein Nyunt, her uncle. “She was just an innocent child with a kind heart. She was our angel.”

Around her body, the family placed some of Aye Myat Thu’s favorite belongings: a set of crayons, a few dolls and a purple rabbit, some Fair and Lovely cream, a Monopoly board and a drawing of Hello Kitty she had sketched two days before she was killed. On the paper, next to the cartoon cat, Aye Myat Thu had written out her name in careful English letters.

“I feel empty,” said Ms. Toe Toe Lwin, her mother.

Right after the funeral, Aye Myat Thu was cremated, the flames burning her treasures with her. In other parts of the country, soldiers have stolen corpses of those they killed, perhaps to conceal the evidence of their brutality. In one case, they exhumed a child’s grave.

The family didn’t want the same for their little girl.

View Source

In Turkey’s Failed Coup, Trainees Face the Same Stiff Punishments as Generals

ISTANBUL — Their happiness shines out of the photograph: 14 graduates of Turkey’s Air Force Academy celebrating their completion of a flight training program with a picture together in front of a fighter jet.

Within months, all but one of the group would be in jail, accused of joining a 2016 coup attempt that brought blood to the streets and threw the country into turmoil from which it has yet to emerge. Last November, 13 of them — the other was not on base, because he was getting married — were found guilty of trying to overthrow the constitutional order and sentenced to life in prison, their military careers and their dreams of flying F-16s dashed.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan faced down the coup attempt and cracked down hard in the aftermath, imposing a state of emergency for two years, detaining 100,000 people and purging 150,000 public employees from their jobs. More than 8,000 military personnel were prosecuted for their part in the insurrection, including more than 600 trainees, cadets and conscripts — most in their early 20s — whose misfortune was to have been given orders that night.

Their fate has been largely overlooked in Turkey, where government rhetoric against the coup perpetrators is strident and families and lawyers of the defendants have been scared to speak out. But after the 13 were sentenced to life in prison — 12 of them receiving “aggravated life,” the harshest form of life sentence, without parole — some of their families decided to break their silence.

“We were not expecting them to be acquitted, to be honest, but we were expecting them to be released at least,” said Kezban Kalin, whose son Alper, 30, was among those sentenced. “But aggravated life?”

At first, the trainee pilots and their families had trusted in the system, in part because Turkey’s history has been littered with coups and lower-ranking troops had never been held accountable in such a way.

“When it comes to a coup, it is at the level of generals,” said Ali Kalin, Alper’s father, who is himself a retired army sergeant. “I want to emphasize the injustice. What did they do?” he said of the trainees.

In the summer of 2016, the group had just arrived at Turkey’s Akinci Air Base outside Ankara, the capital, to start training on F-16 fighter jets — the pinnacle of a 10-year military education. On July 15, they were called in to the base take an English exam and were then told to stand by to observe a counterterrorism operation.

But Akinci air base turned out to be the headquarters of the coup plotters, a collection of military personnel and civilians who that evening ordered troops to seize control of key installations, planes to bomb Parliament and a unit of commandos to capture Mr. Erdogan.

The president evaded capture, and in a cellphone interview with a television station, he called on members of the public to face down the putsch. By morning, troops loyal to the government had regained control and attacked Akinci air base, detaining many of those involved.

The trainee pilots had been largely unaware of what was going on, according to their statements to investigators and in court, which the government challenged and which could not be independently verified.

Their cellphones had been taken away — which was normal during a military operation — and the television had been removed from the mess hall where they spent much of the night sitting around, they said. They moved chairs, made tea. Some stood guard on the back entrance to the squadron building, and three were sent to the front gate and handed rifles, although the court found that they had not used them.

As the base came under fire from special forces troops, the trainees were told to leave, which most of them did around 8 a.m., driving their own cars. Alper Kalin arrived home scared and exhausted, but his parents reassured him.

“I did not think anything would happen to those trainees,” Ali Kalin said. “They did not use firearms. They were not involved in anything — just Akinci base was their place of duty.”

Eleven days later, the group was called back to the base to give testimony about the events, and they were immediately detained. Within hours, their names had appeared on a list of personnel purged from the military.

That was a bombshell for the trainees and their families from which they are still reeling. The pilots have been in detention ever since. When their parents and siblings tried to find them at police stations and army bases, they encountered insults and abuse. From being proud parents of celebrated military achievers, suddenly they were branded traitors and terrorists.

“I did not go to the hearings,” said Sumeyra Soylu, 25, whose brother Ali was one of the 13 detained. “There was a certain group of people, known as the plaintiffs, who were cursing and swearing loudly at the relatives of the defendants, and he didn’t want us ever to hear them.”

Then followed four and a half years of legal proceedings as prosecutors indicted more than 500 defendants in the Akinci base trial. In a courtroom the size of a sports arena at Sincan, outside Ankara, 80 trainee pilots went on trial alongside senior commanders and civilians accused of leading the coup. The United States-based Islamic preacher, Fethullah Gulen, was charged in absentia of being the mastermind.

Mr. Erdogan was listed among the victims of the events and was represented throughout the trial by his lawyer, Huseyin Aydin, who often clashed with the defendants and their lawyers.

“The target of the crime of breach of Constitution that many defendants, including the trainee lieutenants, were charged with was President Erdogan,” Mr. Aydin said in written answers to questions from The New York Times.

The trainees were charged with being members of a terrorist organization, trying to overthrow the constitutional order, murder and attempted murder, since eight civilians died in clashes at the entrance of the base. But the prosecution did not produce evidence that implicated them in the coup plot or the clashes that occurred, their lawyer said. The lawyer asked not to be named to avoid legal repercussions for himself.

As trainee officers, they are still undergoing their education and can only take orders, not issue them, he said. Akinci base was their place of work, so they should not be considered guilty simply for being present there, and their own commanders testified in court that the trainees had played no part in the events, he said. Yet in the end, they were convicted, along with all of the others present at the base that night, of trying to overthrow the constitutional order.

“The top commander received the same sentence. The lowest-level soldier received the same sentence,” Ms. Kalin said. “How is that possible?”

Mr. Aydin said that trainee pilots had provided support services that night to the coup plotters in place of the usual staff, including transporting pilots and guarding buildings and captives. “There is no doubt that the trainee pilots contributed to the coup attempt,” he said, adding that the conviction was not final and still had to go through the appeal process.

Many Turks opposed the coup. But as the crackdown has continued for more than four years and swept up many with no connection to the events surrounding it, they have become deeply unhappy with the state of justice.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of Turkey’s largest opposition party, supported Mr. Erdogan against the coup plotters but has since accused him of orchestrating a civilian coup when he rounded up tens of thousands of political opponents, academics, lawyers and journalists who had nothing to do with the coup attempt.

The purges in the armed forces were systematic, rooting out whole units and conducting yearly roundups. Only two pilots remain in the air force from the class of 2010, to which the group of 13 belonged, said a former classmate who was among those purged.

Mr. Kalin, who served much of his career in the gendarme, said: “Our trust in the law, in the courts, in justice, in the state, in the government fell to zero. Even below zero.”

By now, the purges and prosecutions have included thousands in the military — officers and cadets alike.

“Is it OK to darken the lives of that many people without discriminating between the innocent and the guilty?” said Hatice Ceylan, whose son Burak, 29, is among the 13 trainees sentenced. “They are just children. There are plenty like my son, rotting in jail.”

View Source

Myanmar’s Bloodshed Reveals a World That Has Changed, and Hasn’t

Government-sponsored massacres became less frequent too. But a wave in the 1990s were mostly in countries that, like Myanmar, had histories of civil war, weak institutions, high poverty rates and politically powerful militaries — Sudan, Rwanda, Nigeria, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, among others.

Though they largely failing to stop those killings as they happened, world leaders and institutions like the United Nations built systems to encourage democracy and avert future atrocities.

Myanmar, a pariah state that had sealed itself off from the world until reopening in 2011, didn’t much benefit from those efforts.

The country also missed out on a global change in how dictatorship works.

A growing number of countries have shifted toward systems where a strongman rises democratically but then consolidates power. These countries still hold elections and call themselves democracies, but heavily restrict freedoms and political rivals. Think Russia, Turkey or Venezuela.

“Repression in the last couple of years has actually gotten worse in dictatorships,” Dr. Frantz said. But large-scale crackdowns are rarer, she added, in part because “today’s dictators are getting savvier in how they oppress.”

Only 20 years ago, 70 percent of protest movements demanding democracy or systemic change succeeded. But that number has since plummeted to a historic low of 30 percent, according to a study by Erica Chenoweth of Harvard University.

Much of the change, Dr. Chenoweth wrote, came through something called “authoritarian learning.”

New-style dictators were wary of calling in the military, which might turn against them. And mass violence would shatter their democratic pretensions. So they developed practices to frustrate or fracture citizen movements: jailing protest leaders, stirring up nationalism, flooding social media with disinformation.

View Source

Myanmar Soldiers, Aiming to Silence Coup Protests, Target Journalists

Ten days after seizing power in Myanmar, the generals issued their first command to journalists: Stop using the words “coup,” “regime” and “junta” to describe the military’s takeover of the government. Few reporters heeded the Orwellian directive, and the junta embraced a new goal — crushing all free expression.

Since then, the regime has arrested at least 56 journalists, outlawed online news outlets known for hard-edge reporting and crippled communications by cutting off mobile data service. Three photojournalists have been shot and wounded while taking photographs of the anti-coup demonstrations.

With professional journalists under pressure, many young people who came of age during a decade of social media and information sharing in Myanmar have jumped into the fray, calling themselves citizen journalists and risking their lives to help document the military’s brutality. They take photographs and videos with their phones and share them online when they get access. It is a role so common now they are known simply as “CJs.”

“They are targeting professional journalists so our country needs more CJs,” said Ma Thuzar Myat, one of the citizen journalists. “I know I might get killed at some point for taking a video record of what is happening. But I won’t step back.”

the Tatmadaw, as the military is known, stamped out a pro-democracy movement by massacring an estimated 3,000 people. She said she saw it as her duty to help capture evidence of today’s violence even though one soldier had already threatened to kill her if she didn’t stop.

The regime’s apparent goal is to turn back the clock to a time when the military ruled the country, the media was firmly in its grip and only the wealthiest people had access to cellphones and the internet. But the new generation of young people who grew up with the internet say they are not giving up their freedoms without a fight.

Facebook became the dominant online forum. A vibrant media sprouted online and newsstands overflowed with competing papers.

Since the Feb. 1 coup, protests have erupted almost daily — often with young people at the forefront — and a broad-based civil disobedience movement has brought the economy to a virtual halt. In response, soldiers and the police have killed at least 536 people.

At the United Nations on Wednesday, the special envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, warned that “a blood bath is imminent.” The regime has arrested thousands, including the country’s civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. On Thursday, one of her lawyers said she had been charged with violating the official secrets act, adding to a list of alleged offenses.

While the military uses state-owned media to spread its propaganda and fire off warnings, attacks on journalists have increased drastically in recent weeks, as have arrests.

hop on his good leg as they lead him away.

Another photojournalist shot that day, U Si Thu, 36, was hit in his left hand as he was holding his camera to his face and photographing soldiers in Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city. He said he believes the soldier who shot him was aiming for his head.

“I had two cameras,” he said, “so it was obvious that I am a photojournalist even though I had no press helmet or vest.”

“I’m sure that the military junta is targeting journalists because they know we are showing the world the reality on the ground and they want to stop us by arresting or killing us,” he added.

Of the 56 journalists arrested, half have been released, according to a group that is tracking arrests. Among those freed were reporters for The Associated Press and the BBC.

But 28 remain in custody, including at least 15 who face prison sentences of up to three years under an unusual law that prohibits the dissemination of information that might induce military officers to disregard or fail in their duties.

Ma Kay Zon Nway, 27, a reporter for Myanmar Now, live streamed her own arrest in late February as she was running from the police in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city. Her video shows the police firing in the air as protesters flee. The sound of her labored breathing is audible as the police catch up and take her away.

She is among those who have been charged under the vague and sweeping statute. She has been allowed to meet just once in person with her lawyer.

Mr. Swe Win, the Myanmar Now editor, himself served seven years in prison for protesting in 1998. “All these court proceedings are being done just for the sake of formality,” he said, adding, “We cannot expect any fair treatment.”

With mobile communications blocked, Facebook banned and nightly internet shutdowns, Myanmar’s mainstream media has come to rely on citizen journalists for videos and news tips, said Mr. Myint Kyaw, the former press council secretary.

One of them, Ko Aung Aung Kyaw, 26, was taking videos of the police arresting people in his Yangon neighborhood when an officer spotted him. The officer swore at him, aimed his rifle and fired, Mr. Aung Aung Kyaw’s video shows.

The bullet hit a wall in front of him.

“I know that recording these kinds of things is very risky and I might get shot to death or arrested,” he said. “But I believe I need to keep doing it for the sake of having a record of evidence to punish them.”

View Source

Inside Myanmar’s Army: ‘They See Protesters as Criminals’

Capt. Tun Myat Aung leaned over the hot pavement in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, and picked up bullet casings. Nausea crept into his throat. The shells, he knew, meant that rifles had been used, real bullets fired at real people.

That night, in early March, he logged on to Facebook to discover that several civilians had been killed in Yangon by soldiers of the Tatmadaw, as Myanmar’s military is known. They were men in uniform, just like him.

Days later, the captain, of the 77th Light Infantry Division, notorious for its massacres of civilians across Myanmar, slipped off base and deserted. He is now in hiding.

“I love the military so much,” he said. “But the message I want to give my fellow soldiers is: If you are choosing between the country and the Tatmadaw, please choose the country.”

ousting Myanmar’s civilian leadership last month, setting off nationwide protests, it has only sharpened its savage reputation, killing more than 420 people and assaulting, detaining or torturing thousands of others, according to a monitoring group.

On Saturday, the deadliest day since the Feb. 1 coup, security forces killed more than 100 people, according to the United Nations. Among them were seven children, including two 13-year-old boys and a 5-year-old boy.

In-depth interviews with four officers, two of whom have deserted since the coup, paint a complex picture of an institution that has thoroughly dominated Myanmar for six decades. From the moment they enter boot camp, Tatmadaw troops are taught that they are guardians of a country — and a religion — that will crumble without them.

They occupy a privileged state within a state, in which soldiers live, work and socialize apart from the rest of society, imbibing an ideology that puts them far above the civilian population. The officers described being constantly monitored by their superiors, in barracks and on Facebook. A steady diet of propaganda feeds them notions of enemies at every corner, even on city streets.

The cumulative effect is a bunkered worldview, in which orders to kill unarmed civilians are to be followed without question. While the soldiers say there is some dissatisfaction with the coup, they regard a wholesale breaking of ranks as unlikely. That makes more bloodshed likely in the coming days and months.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the civilian leader deposed and locked up in last month’s coup. Her father, Gen. Aung San, founded the Tatmadaw.

Today, the Tatmadaw’s foes are again domestic, not foreign: the millions of people who have poured onto the streets for anti-coup rallies or taken part in strikes.

On Saturday, which was Armed Forces Day, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the commander in chief and instigator of the coup, gave a speech vowing to “protect people from all danger.” As tanks and goose-stepping soldiers paraded down the broad avenues of Naypyidaw, the bunker-filled capital built by an earlier junta, security forces shot protesters and bystanders alike, with more than 40 towns seeing violence.

intensity of opposition to the putsch. Officers trained in psychological warfare regularly plant conspiracy theories about democracy in Facebook groups favored by soldiers, according to social media experts and one of the officers who spoke with The Times.

In this paranoid world, the thumping that Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy delivered to the military’s proxy party in last November’s elections was easily portrayed as electoral fraud.

A Muslim cabal, funded by oil-rich sheikhdoms, is accused of trying to destroy the Buddhist faith of Myanmar’s majority. Influential monks, who count army generals among those praying at their feet, preach that the Tatmadaw and Buddhist monkhood must unite to combat Islam.

In the Tatmadaw’s telling, a rapacious West could conquer Myanmar at any moment. Fear of invasion is thought to be one reason that military rulers moved the capital early in this century from Yangon, near the coast, to the landlocked plains of Naypyidaw.

subvert the country with piles of cash for activists and politicians. A military spokesman implied during a news conference that people protesting the coup, too, were foreign-funded.

Captain Tun Myat Aung said that in his first year at the Defense Services Academy, he was shown a film that portrayed democracy activists in 1988 as frenzied animals slicing off soldiers’ heads. In truth, thousands of protesters and others were killed by the Tatmadaw that year.

One of Captain Tun Myat Aung’s men was recently struck in the eye by a projectile from a protester’s slingshot, he said. But the captain acknowledged that the casualties were remarkably lopsided in the other direction.

Tatmadaw Facebook feeds may show soldiers besieged by violent protesters armed with homemade firebombs. But it is the security forces who have assaulted medics, killed children and forced bystanders to crawl in obeisance.

According to the soldiers who spoke with The Times, a suspension of mobile data access over the past two weeks was aimed as much at isolating troops who were beginning to question their orders as it was at cutting off the wider population.

most notoriously against Rohingya Muslims, but they have also targeted other ethnic groups, like the Karen, the Kachin and the Rakhine.

When the 77th Light Infantry Division was fighting in Shan State, in northeastern Myanmar, Captain Tun Myat Aung said he could feel the disgust of people from various ethnic groups. As a member of another ethnic minority, the Chin, he understood their fear of the Bamar majority.

Although he says he shot only to wound, not to kill, Captain Tun Myat Aung spent eight years on the front lines. He developed a rapport with just one group of ethnic minority villagers during that entire time, he said.

“People hate soldiers for what the soldiers did to them,” he said.

But the Tatmadaw also saved him. His mother died when he was 10. His father drank. He was sent to a boarding school for ethnic minority students, where he excelled. At the Defense Services Academy, he studied physics and English.

“The military became my family,” he said. “I was automatically happy when I saw my soldier’s uniform.”

On Feb. 1, in the pre-dawn torpor of Yangon, Captain Tun Myat Aung clambered onto a military truck, half asleep, strapping on his helmet. He didn’t know what was going on until a fellow soldier whispered about a coup.

“At that moment, I felt like I lost hope for Myanmar,” he said.

Days later, he saw his major holding a box of bullets — real ones, not rubber. He cried that night.

“I realized,” he said, “that most of the soldiers see the people as the enemy.”

View Source

Dozens Gunned Down in One of Myanmar’s Bloodiest Days Since Coup

At a military parade on Saturday, the general who led the overthrow of Myanmar’s civilian government last month said the army was determined “to protect people from all danger.”

Before the day was over, the security forces under his command had shot and killed a 5-year-old boy, two 13-year-old boys and a 14-year-old girl. A baby girl in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, was struck in the eye with a rubber bullet, although her parents said she was expected to live.

The slain children were among dozens of people killed on Saturday as the security forces cracked down on protests across Myanmar, in what appeared to be one of the deadliest days since the Feb. 1 coup led by Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, commander of the Tatmadaw, as the military is known. One news outlet, Myanmar Now, put Saturday’s death toll as high as 80.

“Today is a day of shame for the armed forces,” Dr. Sasa, a spokesman for a group of elected officials who say they represent Myanmar’s government, said in a statement.

a medal and a ceremonial sword.

Russia has been an important supplier of weapons to the Myanmar military, and as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council it can be counted on, along with China, to block any attempt by the international body to impose sanctions on Myanmar.

The United States said on Thursday that it was putting its own financial sanctions on two military-owned conglomerates that control a large segment of Myanmar’s economy.

shots had been fired at its cultural center in Yangon, the American Center, on Saturday. The embassy said that no one was hurt and that it was investigating.

the Karen National Union said on Facebook that it had overrun and seized a Tatmadaw camp. The group posted photos of weapons it said it had seized, including what appeared to be machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

The Tatmadaw has fought for decades with various ethnic groups in Myanmar, including the Karen. Some opposition leaders hope that urban protesters, who are mainly from the majority Bamar ethnic group, can build a coalition with the ethnic groups to resist the Tatmadaw.

The widespread killings on Saturday came a day after military-run television threatened protesters with being “shot in the back and the back of the head” if they persisted in opposing military rule.

According to the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, which has tracked arrests and killings since the coup, about a quarter of those killed before Saturday were shot in the head.

The killings on Saturday took place in more than two dozen cities across the country. Many of the victims were bystanders.

In Meiktila, a city in central Myanmar, 14-year-old Ma Pan Ei Phyu was at home when the security forces began shooting randomly in the neighborhood, said her father, U Min Min Tun. The family did not hear a shot, and they didn’t realize that she had been killed until she fell to the floor. She had been hit in the chest.

In Yangon, 13-year-old Maung Wai Yan Tun was playing outside when the police and soldiers arrived. Scared, he ran away and was shot, his mother told the online news outlet Mizzima. The family went to recover his body, but finding it surrounded by security forces, they dared not approach.

One of the bloodiest incidents took place in Yangon’s Dala Township. On Friday afternoon, the police arrested two protesters at their home.

Soon after, neighbors gathered outside the police station and demanded their release. The police responded by firing rubber bullets and stun grenades at the crowd, one witness said.

The residents retreated but returned to the police station after midnight. This time, after a lengthy standoff, the security forces opened fire with live ammunition. At least 10 people were killed and 40 injured.

View Source

Bretton Sciaroni, Influential American in Cambodia, Dies at 69

Bretton G. Sciaroni, an American lawyer who became a powerful business broker and an adviser to the government in Cambodia after being fired as a White House official when he became embroiled in the Iran-contra scandal, died on March 12 at his home in the nation’s capital, Phnom Penh. He was 69.

He had been ill for some time, friends said, but no autopsy was performed to determine the cause of death. Two fancy pens were placed in his pocket when he was buried, an honor generally reserved for senior officials.

In more than three decades in Cambodia, Mr. Sciaroni became an influential and well-connected figure in legal and business circles as well as providing the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen with legal opinions that included a justification of the prime minister’s seizure of full power in a violent 1997 coup.

That analysis and the controversy that followed it harked back to a legal opinion Mr. Sciaroni had drawn up as a 35-year-old lawyer in Washington justifying a behind-the-scenes deal in which profits from arms sales to Iran were to be used to fund the Nicaraguan rebels known as the contras, despite a law severely limiting such assistance.

Sciaroni & Associates, which facilitates and provides advice on government contracts and investment projects.

He became influential in the business world and served as chairman of the International Business Chamber of Cambodia, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce and co-chairman of Cambodia’s Working Group on Law, Tax and Governance.

He was later formally named a legal adviser to the Cambodian government, an appointment made by royal decree that carried the rank of minister.

He angered many in Cambodia when he drew up a government “white paper” that justified a coup in 1997 by Mr. Hun Sen, arguing that his seizure of full leadership from his co-prime minister, Norodom Ranariddh, had in fact been carried out to prevent a coup.

Mr. Sciaroni was born in Los Angeles in September 1951, the son of a doctor, and grew up in Fresno, Calif.

He received a master’s degree in international affairs from Georgetown University in Washington and a law degree from the University of California, Los Angeles. He then worked for conservative policy associations before joining the Reagan administration, where he worked on arms control and commerce before moving to the Intelligence Oversight Board.

In Cambodia, according to a friend, he lived by an unchanging routine: arriving at and leaving his office early, then visiting a fixed circuit of bars, where he regularly tipped the waitresses two dollars each, a considerable sum for working Cambodians.

He called himself a devout Roman Catholic but said his regular bedside reading was not the Bible but “A Confederacy of Dunces,” a picaresque novel by John Kennedy Toole, which he opened at random before falling asleep.

He is survived by his wife, Bui Thi Hoa My; their daughter, Patricia; and two brothers.

“Brett was terrific, personally and professionally,” recalled Luke Hunt, a Phnom Penh-based foreign correspondent and columnist for The Diplomat, an online current affairs magazine. “He ranked among the handful of foreigners who genuinely knew Cambodia and the powers that made it work.”

View Source