Army Blamed for Delay in Court Case of Slain Journalist

By San Yamin Aung 11 February 2015

RANGOON — The case of a Burmese journalist shot dead while in military custody has yet to be taken up by a court more than four months after his death, with the victim’s widow saying a lack of Burma Army cooperation is behind the delay.

Aung Kyaw Naing, also known as Par Gyi, was killed while in Burma Army custody in early October. He had been reporting on clashes between government troops and ethnic Karen rebels in Mon State’s Kyaikmayaw Township when he was detained. It was not until nearly three weeks after he was killed that the military announced on Oct. 23 that he had been fatally shot while attempting to seize a weapon off a soldier and flee custody.

Ma Thandar, Par Gyi’s widow, told The Irrawaddy that she had filed an inquest at the police station in Kyaikmayaw Township before her husband’s body was exhumed on Nov. 5, but the process of bringing the case before a court has been beset by delays.

“We still haven’t been able to bring the case to court,” she said on Wednesday. “We went to Kyaikmayaw yesterday. The township officer there said they had completed all of their work but they can’t build the case because they don’t have enough information for that.”

Police said they interrogated more than 20 civilian witnesses but they have been unable to interrogate members of the military and the Burma Army has not handed over as evidence the items that it confiscated on Par Gyi’s person, according to Ma Thandar.

“In the report of the Myanmar Human Rights Commission, they suggested that the case should be brought before a civilian court to ensure transparency, but the military has not collaborated on it to bring the case to court,” the family’s lawyer Robert San Aung said.

He added that investigators building the case have hit an impasse because they have not received a statement from the military that would allow prosecutors to establish the case’s defendants.

“We sent a letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs on Feb. 1. We will wait 60 days for the case to be brought to court. If it has not happened by then, we will submit a letter directly to the president,” Ma Thandar said.

“It is a great violation of human rights and citizen’s rights. If we can’t sue the military, they are above the law. If they have a clear conscience, the case should be brought to court. The delay in the case proves that they did wrongly.”

President Thein Sein ordered an investigation of Par Gyi’s case in late October last year by the Myanmar Human Rights Commission, which released the findings of its month-long inquiry in early December.

The report concluded that Par Gyi was not tortured while detained by the Burma Army, despite witnesses at the exhumation of Par Gyi’s body claiming that it bore signs of torture. Ma Thandar, who was present at the exhumation and was among those alleging torture, has said the report was “fabricated.”