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20 – 26 October – Justice for the Killing of Journalist by Burma Army Must be Found

October 28, 2014

20 Oct 2014 By Asian TribuneNews of the murder of a journalist by the Burma Army while being held in custody should send shockwaves across the country and beyond, but sadly it is not much of a surprise for those who are aware of the abusive nature of the most powerful institution in Burma. What will transpire next will be a clear indicator of the Government’s will to pursue justice and end the impunity that the Burma Army has enjoyed for so long. Not many are optimistic.

Aung Kyaw Naing, also known as Ko Par Gyi, was a freelance journalist covering the recent clashes in eastern Burma between the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) and the Burma Army and its’ proxy Border Guard Force (BGF). After visiting Kyaikmayaw, Mon State, the scene of heavy clashes in September 2014, Ko Par Gyi went missing. His wife, Ma Than Dar, began to search for him and held a press conference on 21 October in Rangoon stating that he was being held in custody by the Burma Army and demanded his immediate release. Just a few days later, a statement was issued to the Myanmar Press Council (Interim) by an aide to commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Min Aung Hlaing, that detailed Ko Par Gyi’s death while in custody. The statement claims that Ko Par Gyi was a captain for the Klohtoobaw Karen Organization (KKO), the political wing of the DKBA, and was shot dead while trying to escape. The DKBA has denied that Ko Par Gyi was indeed a member of their organization.

What must happen now is a credible, transparent, independent investigation into the killing of Ko Par Gyi. As Shawn Crispin of the Committee to Protect Journalists expressed in a statement, “Civilian authorities must investigate the military’s accounting of his death, which has the initial hallmarks of a cover-up. Any soldier found responsible for his extrajudicial killing or mistreatment before his death must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” Yet the Burma Army remains an institution in which impunity is entrenched. This impunity is, in fact, enshrined in the 2008 Constitution. Under the 2008 Constitution, a courts-martial system was established which, under its mandate, military personnel are never required to appear in a civilian court. Under this courts-martial system, the highest power in the military justice system in Burma is Min Aung Hlaing, who can overturn any decision made.

This is simply not good enough. For Ma Than Dar, who has a daughter with Ko Par Gyi, the pursuit of justice will be arduous but she is determined, “I don’t want any wives or daughters to suffer like we suffer. I will proceed with the charges [against the army] for torture and death.”  Furthermore, media networks and civil society will be in solidarity, as the demonstration against the killing in Rangoon over the weekend proves. The organizers of this demonstration issued a statement, signed by 46 civil society organizations expressing doubt over the realities presented by the Burma Army, and calling for an independent investigation, “We, the following democratic organizations, strongly call for immediate establishment of a commission of inquiry comprised of independent experts to seek truth about the incident, and take action against the perpetrator of the crime according to the law.”

Now the international community must also show solidarity with Ma Than Dar and pressure Burma to put an end to the impunity that the Burma Army enjoys. After all this is not an isolated case. Documented cases of extrajudicial killings, torture, rape and sexual assault perpetrated by the Burma Army are common in conflict areas throughout the country as outlined by the recent AAPP-B submission to the UN General Assembly. This high profile incident can serve as a catalyst to develop a narrative and the momentum to make the armed forces accountable to the people. It is also an opportunity for the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission to demonstrate that is not a toothless, non-independent institution and initiate a comprehensive investigation into the killing of Ko Par Gyi. In an increasingly restrictive media environment, journalists murdered by the Burma Army with impunity does not bode well for the future of freedom of expression, nor national reconciliation in Burma.

News Highlights  

An upsurge in the number of Rohingya fleeing Arakan State by boat in the last few weeks has put the total figure at an estimated 100,000 since violence broke out in 2012

Dawei Development Association (DDA), a community-based local organization from Dawei and other activists meet with National Human Rights Commission of Thailand to submit a report on negative impacts of the Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ), a joint mega industrial project initiated by the government of Burma and Thailand while Japan to undertake research projects to assess the feasibility of getting involved

Inside Burma    

All Burma Students’ Democratic Front and the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society hold a two-day meeting in Rangoon to discuss political issues in Burma, including constitutional amendments, electoral voting systems and the ongoing peace process

Myanmar Journalists Network meets with Information Minister, Ye Htut to express concerns over increase in legal actions against the media

Union Election Commission announces that the 2015 general elections will be held in late October/early November  and  a recommendation by the joint house committee on constitutional amendment does not suggest amending the charter that effectively bars Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from participating in the election

Zaw Min, Chief Minister of Karen State, orders businessmen who have received land concessions from confiscated land in Hlaing Bwe Township to return the land to its owners

Burma Army continues deploying its troops in the area controlled by Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army- North, despite the promise given by Central Eastern Commander, General Ko Ko Naing to withdraw government troops from the disputed territories

General Ner Dah Mya, the head of Karen National Defense Organization, says armed conflict between Burma Government’s militia, Border Guard Force and Democratic Karen Benevolent Army in Burma this month is linked to plans to build hydropower dams on the Salween River in Karen State, and points out that most Karen people are opposed to the construction of the dams as they would not see the benefits

A court in Arakan State sentences seven Buddhists to seven years each in prison over the killing of 10 Muslims in an attack on a passenger bus in 2012 as retaliation for the rape and murder of a girl allegedly by Muslim men


Thai Prime-minister, General Prayuth Chan-o-Cha to attend ASEAN summit in Burma next month

In Thailand, two Burmese migrant workers are arrested for the murder of a duck farm owner and his wife in Photharam


India Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit to Burma and Australia in November to brainstorm in pressing regional security and global economic issues

EU to table a resolution on Burma at this year’s UN General Assembly, despite President Thein Sein urging the regional body not to

U Thein Zaw, one of the three chairmen of the Government’s Union Peace-making Work Committee, meets with Mongla’s leader Sai Leun and Wa deputy leader Xiao Minliang in Mongla Shan State, making 3 propositions to ethnic leaders regarding nationwide ceasefire agreement, peace process as well as tourism and trade in the area


Special Rapporteur underscores need for new rights resolution
By Alex Moodie and Robert Finch
Myanmar Times

Burma: Will Government Look into Extrajudicial Killing of a Journalist?
By Zin Linn
Asian Tribune

Camps Bring Further Danger to Rohingya Muslims Fleeing Potential Genocide in Burma
By Nic Dunlop

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Statements and Press Releases

ကုိပါၾကီး ေသဆုံးမႈႏွင့္ ပတ္သက္၍ ၈၈မ်ဳိးဆက္ (ၿငိမ္းခ်မ္းေရးႏွင့္ ပြင့္လင္း လူ႔အဖြဲ႕အစည္း)၏ သေဘာထား ထုတ္ျပန္ခ်က္
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ႏိုင္ငံသားတစ္ဦးျဖစ္သူ ကိုပါႀကီး(ခ)ကိုေအာင္ေက်ာ္ႏိုင္ ေသဆံုးခဲ့ရျခင္းအတြက္ ဒီမိုကရက္တစ္ အင္အားစုမ်ား၏ စုေပါင္း သေဘာထား ထုတ္ျပန္ေၾကညာခ်က္
By ဒီမိုကရက္တစ္ အင္အားစုမ်ား

AAPP-B Submission to the UN General Assembly
By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma)

Canadian Burma Ethnic Nationalities Organization Founded at the 2nd Burma Ethnic Nationalities Conference Canada
By Canadian Burma Ethnic Nationalities Organization

Local Communities from Dawei Call for Human Rights Violations to be Addressed in Special Economic Zone
By Dawei Development Association

ဒုတိယ/ဗိုလ္မွဴးႀကီး ေစာဆန္းေအာင္အား တာ၀န္မွ ရုတ္သိမ္းၿပီး တပ္ဖြဲ႕မွ ထုတ္ပယ္ျခင္း
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69th Session of the UN General Assembly – Situation of human rights in Myanmar: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar
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ညီညြတ္ေသာ တိုင္းရင္းသား လူမ်ဳိးမ်ား ဖက္ဒရယ္ေကာင္စီ၏ ပထမအႀကိမ္ ေကာင္စီ မ်က္ႏွာစုံညီ အစည္းအေ၀းမွ ထုတ္ျပန္ေက်ညာခ်က္
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Voices from the Ground: Concerns over the Dawei Special Economic Zone and Related Projects
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Myanmar: The Politics of Rakhine State
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This post is in: Weekly Highlights