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Myanmar: Muslim lawyer’s murder still stirs controversy

30th Jan 2018
Myanmar: Muslim lawyer’s murder still stirs controversy

By Kyaw Ye Lynn

YANGON, Myanmar (AA): A year ago, Ko Ni, a prominent Muslim lawyer and top legal adviser for the ruling National League for Democracy, was assassinated in Myanmar’s former capital Yangon.

On Monday, lawyer groups, family members and taxi drivers marked the first anniversary of Ko Ni’s assassination with calls for justice.

Ko Ni, 63, was shot in the head by a gunman at Yangon International Airport on Jan. 29, 2017 as he returned from a visit to Indonesia as part of a Myanmar delegation of Muslim leaders and government officials. A taxi driver, Nay Win, 48, was also shot dead outside the airport as he attempted to apprehend the gunman.

The suspected gunman, Kyi Lin, was arrested shortly after the shooting. He has reportedly confessed to having been hired by a group of three ex-military officers and a businessman to assassinate Ko Ni.

Police then proceeded to arrest three alleged co-conspirators Zeya Phyo, Aung Win Zaw and Aung Win Tun in February. However the suspected group leader Aung Win Khaing is still at large.

Their trial began 10 months ago, but, after nearly 50 hearings, there is still no verdict.

Yin Nwe Khaing, Ko Ni’s eldest daughter, told Anadolu Agency that the only thing the family was wary of was losing sight of truth and justice.

‘Who is really behind this’

“We can wait. It doesn’t matter for us even if the trial process takes a decade,” she said in a telephone interview on Monday.

‘‘What we want to know is who is really behind this,” she said, adding that she believed the four current suspects were not the only ones responsible for the assassination.

“It seems we cannot get the truth as long as Aung Win Khaing is still at large,” said Yin Nwe Khaing.

In a joint statement on Sunday, the Myanmar Lawyers’ Network, the Yangon Lawyer Association and Media Lawyers’ Network called for the swift punishment of the accused murderers — again, a verdict has yet to be pronounced.

Nay La, a lawyer for Ko Ni, told Anadolu Agency over the phone that authorities must put forward more efforts to bring Aung Win Khaing before a court.

“We believe there have been flaws in the police investigation of the case. Police testified Aung Win Khaing has not left the country yet. So why have they not identifed his location and arrested him?” he said.

“So the question for police is where he is hiding or who is protecting him,” said the lawyer.

– ‘Extreme patriotism’ Military-appointed Home Affairs Minister Lt. Gen. Kyaw Swe had said the killing was motivated by “extreme patriotism”, and was not part of a larger conspiracy involving the military or an ultra-nationalist group.

“This extreme patriotism led to assassinating him according to our findings,” Kyaw Swe told a news conference last February.

Many note that the assassination coincides with Ko Ni’s call on National League for Democracy lawmakers to accelerate works to amend the constitution, which still grants considerable power to the military.

The assassination came after Ko Ni had spoken about the possible constitution amendments in a public talk.

The Muslim lawyer in a predominantly Buddhist country is considered the one reponsible for helping create the State Counsellor position for Aung San Suu Kyi, who was barred from the presidency by a clause in the country’s military-designed contitution.

The counsellor position allows Aung San Suu Kyi to, in effect, run the nation.

More than 650,000 refugees, mostly children and women, have fled Myanmar since Aug. 25, 2017, when Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community, according to the UN.

At least 9,000 Rohingya were killed in Rakhine state from Aug. 25 to Sept. 24, according to Doctors Without Borders.

In a report published on Dec. 12, 2017, the global humanitarian organization said the deaths of 71.7 percent or 6,700 Rohingya were caused by violence. They include 730 children below the age of 5.

The UN has documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings and disappearances committed by security personnel. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.

[Photo: Myanmar Rohingya Muslim refugees fleeing Mynamar army attacks in Rakihne State at Cox’s Bazar on 4 September, 2017. Photographer: Zakir Hossain Chowdhury/AA]

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