Mystery shrouds Muslim lawyer’s assassination in Myanmar

Nobel laureate State Counselor Suu Kyi stays silent on Ko Ni’s first death anniversary
Mystery shrouds Muslim lawyer's assassination in Myanmar

It has been a year since prominent Muslim lawyer Ko Ni was assassinated, however, Aung San Suu Kyi is yet to utter a single word to mark the first death anniversary of the man credited with enabling her to become the country’s state counselor.

While the Nobel prize winner did term the killing “a great loss for the party” a month after the murder on Jan. 29, 2017, Suu Kyi, who has in recent times faced strong criticism for her continued silence on the plight of persecuted Rohingya Muslim community, appears to be not pushing for all the facts of the case to come to surface by her stony silence.

The assassination of Ko Ni continues to be shrouded in mystery despite the fact that the alleged gunman who pulled the trigger at Yangon International Airport has been in police custody since late February 2017 along with three other suspects who supposedly paid him for the killing.

Gunman Kyi Lin, who was arrested shortly after the shooting, has reportedly confessed to having been hired by a group of three ex-military officers and a businessman.

Three alleged co-conspirators Zeya Phyo, Aung Win Zaw and Aung Win Tun were arrested in February 2017; however, the suspected group leader, Aung Win Khaing, remains at large. The exact motive of the killing, which took place after Ko Ni had called for further amendments to the constitution, remains unclear.

-Man of humble origins

Ko Ni was a man of humble origins. He was born in a small town of Katha in central Sagaing region in 1952. He was the son of a Muslim Bengali father from India and a Burmese mother, according to his friends and family members.

“His father came from India when he was with the British Indian Army in the early 1990s. His mother was a Myanmar Buddhist,” said another prominent Muslim lawyer Robert San Aung, who was honored with Martin Ennals Award in 2015 in recognition of his works as one of the country’s top human rights defenders.

San Aung said he had known Ko Ni since 1974 when he arrived at University of Yangon to study law. Ko Ni used to be a lecturer there from 1976 to 1979, he added.

“He was a good friend of mine as well as like my brother. He was good at arguments. I knew he would become a good lawyer,” he said.

But Koi Ni was not always into activism.

“He was not an activist while I was there [at the university],” he said, adding that Ko Ni had never participated in any demonstration against the junta while he himself was imprisoned six times between 1974 and 2010.

“He was just interested in laws, especially in studying various constitutions. I was the first person he would discuss when he found something, a confusion or a loophole, in a constitution,” San Aung added.

Ko Ni established his own Laurel Law Firm in 1995. During his career, he oversaw more than 900 criminal cases and 1,400 civil cases.

He wrote several articles on many subjects, including the constitution, rule of law and civil rights in Myanmar. He also published six books: Whose fingerprint is this? (published in 2010); How shall we vote in the upcoming election? (2012); Article collections on Rule of Law (2012); How shall we amend the 2008 Constitution (2013); What is PR? Quintana, Myanmar and 1982 Citizenship Law (2013); and Democratic Elections, Fraud and Public Rights (2015).

UN, US voice concern after mass graves found in Rakhine
UN, US voice concern after mass graves found in Rakhine

The United States and United Nations voiced concern Thursday after a report detailed extensive mass graves in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state.The Associated Press (AP) led the investigation that uncovered what it said are at least five previously unreported mass graves in the conflict-ridden area.“It was a mixed-up jumble of corpses piled on top of each other,” Noor Kadir, a 24-year-old firewood collector, told the AP as he recounted his discovery of two sites.The Myanmarese government denies carrying out mass slaughter of the persecuted minority Rohingya Muslims in the region, but the AP’s report indicates a “systematic slaughter” it said has been carried out by Myanmar’s military. The AP said the mass graves it uncovered are just the latest piece of evidence of genocide being carried out by Naypyidaw.Reacting to the “extremely troubling” report, the UN said it “underscores the need for the UN to have access to Rakhine state”.“We don’t have the access we would like to have, and it’s very important for us to have access to verify these reports,” said Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.The U.S. said it is “deeply troubled” by the report, echoing the UN’s concerns over the lack of access to the region.”We remain focused on helping to ensure the accountability for those responsible for human rights abuses and violations,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.”With the help of forensic experts, an investigation would help provide a more comprehensive picture of exactly what happened. The world needs to know exactly what happened there.”Galeri: Rohingya refugees riddled with illness treated at Bangladeshi clinicMore than 650,000 refugees, mostly children and women, have fled Myanmar since Aug. 25, 2017 when Myanmar forces launched a bloody crackdown.The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world’s most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.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.India’s top court seeks gov’t response in Rohingya caseMuslim lawyer’s murder still stirs controversy in MyanmarUN says 100,000 Rohingya in grave danger from monsoon rains

Muslim lawyer’s murder still stirs controversy in Myanmar
Muslim lawyer’s murder still stirs controversy in Myanmar

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 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.

Suu Kyi’s strong supporter

Ko Ni, like many others in the country, used to be a staunch supporter of Suu Kyi and her party NLD since after the military’s brutal crackdown on mass movement against the junta in 1988.

He joined the party only after the NLD saw a landslide in the 2012 by-elections.

“He usually made strong criticism of the 2008 constitution. He believed it was time to start working for an amendment. That’s why he joined the party,” Ko Ni’s eldest daughter, Yin New Khaing, told Anadolu Agency.

After joining the party as legal adviser to party leader Suu Kyi, he was appointed member of the Legal Advisory Committee and the Central Legal Aid Committee. He was also appointed Central Committee Member for Constitutional Amendments.

“He seemed really happy at finding ways to amend the constitution in those days,” she recalled.

“And he really believed he could help the NLD in amending the constitution.”

Ko Ni, who was often targeted by nationalist groups because of his religion as well as his expertise in finding loopholes in the junta-draft constitution, was the one who enabled a constitutional way for Suu Kyi to become the country’s state counselor.

The previous constitution had barred Suu Kyi from running for the presidency.

After another NLD landslide in 2015 general elections, eyes were on Suu Kyi to see if she could amend Article 59(f) of the constitution that was stopping her from becoming the president.

Shortly after the election victory, Ko Ni made a landmark comment that made the military and the then ruling military-back Union Solidarity and Development Party very angry.

“There is an informal way [to amend the constitution] in which we have to enact a special law, temporarily suspend that clause [Article 59-f].

“This special law can be enacted by a majority vote [51 percent] in the Union Parliaments,” Ko Ni had told journalists before the NLD-led government took office in March 2016.

It was only after he had pointed to such a way forward that a new top position called “State Counselor” was created in April 2016 for Suu Kyi to oversee Myanmar’s Cabinet.

NLD leader U. Nyan Win confirmed Ko Ni’s “decisive role” in establishing that position for Suu Kyi.

“He noticed that the constitution doesn’t state such a top position can be created or not,” he told Anadolu Agency by phone on Thursday.

“Then we drafted a bill for the position so that she [Suu Kyi] could effectively run the Cabinet,” he said.

Nyan Win said the party continued to miss the Muslim lawyer’s contributions.

“It’s a major loss for us, especially in our effort to amend the constitution,” he added.

SOURCE: https://www.yenisafak.com/en/world/mystery-shrouds-muslim-lawyers-assassination-in-myanmar-3063912

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