Friday, 22 September, 2017

Ikiam calls for independent probe into death of Myanmar's prominent Muslim lawyer

Myanmar: Legal advisor to Aung San Suu Kyi's party U Ko Ni shot dead at Yangon airport Prominent Muslim lawyer shot dead at Myanmar airport
Saul Franklin | 31 January, 2017, 07:12

Ko Ni was shot in the head at Yangon International Airport on Sunday evening as he returned from a visit to Indonesia as part of a Myanmar delegation of Muslim leaders and government officials.

A spokesman for Myanmar's President Htin Kyaw said police were questioning the man detained "to find out why he killed him, and who is behind it or paid him to do it".

The suspect has been named by police as Kyi Lin, 53, but there is no information as to motive.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Monday 69,000 people were now estimated to have fled to Bangladesh since the launch of a sweep by the security forces in response to the attacks on October 9 in which nine policemen were killed.

Suu Kyi was not in attendance and has yet to comment on the killing.

A widely respected expert in constitutional law, Ko Ni was a powerful voice within the ruling National League for Democracy against the continued power of the military, which retains a grip over key institutions.

More than 23,000 people have been internally displaced, the office said. Many later lined up to pour a handful of sand on Ko Ni's last resting place.

A year ago he helped found the Myanmar Muslim Lawyers' Association and spoke of the need to stand up for the rights of Muslim citizens.

Anti-Muslim sentiments have increased in the country in recent years following deadly intercommunal violence in the western state of Rakhine, home to many Muslims belonging to the Rohingya minority.

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Ko Ni, a high-profile Muslim in a predominantly Buddhist country, has received multiple threats in the past, his friends say. Authorities were searching for any possible accomplices. Police said he had already served two custodial sentences for trafficking religious antiquities.

The NLD also released a statement on Sunday night, noting Ko Ni's long support of the party's work.

Numerous thousands of people who streamed to the cemetery wept openly.

The overflowing crowd turned rowdy at times, jostling for space as the open pavilion, with a capacity for perhaps 500 people, was surrounded by at least 10 times that number of people.

U Ko Ni's daughter and grandson were present at the airport when the lawyer was assassinated.

"Of course we are all shocked and really sad", he said.

The NLD, led by Suu Kyi, vowed to continue implementing the party's political ideals.

Burma's state-run daily The Mirror editorial hailed U Ko Ni as a "good citizen" who had been working for the national cause of democracy and justice.

Suu Kyi was the apparent target of an assassination attempt in 2003, when her motorcade was ambushed by a mob on a remote road in central Burma. In a statement to mark the first anniversary of anti-Muslim violence in Meikhtila, the European Burma Network warned: "Unless greater priority is given to tackling this growing problem, we fear that further violence and more laws and other policies which persecute and discriminate against religious and ethnic minorities in Burma are inevitable". The attack was generally thought to have been carried out by a faction of the military, although no one faced punishment. His son was shot dead on the day of the coup, and another Shan noble disappeared after being arrested.

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