Case Closed in Par Gyi Inquiry, Widow Vows to Appeal

By Zarni Mann 23 June 2015

MANDALAY — A court in eastern Burma’s Kyaikmayaw Township has determined that a journalist killed in military custody late last year died of a gunshot wound, but delivered no remarks about who was to blame.

Two soldiers implicated in his death were brought before a separate military tribunal earlier this year, but were acquitted in May according to the Myanmar Human Rights Commission (MHRC).

Par Gyi, a freelance reporter also known by the name Aung Kyaw Naing, was at the center of a six-month controversy after he was abducted by the Burma Army while covering conflict in Mon State.

The military announced about three weeks later that he had been shot while trying to escape, claiming he had attempted to abscond with an officer’s gun.

The statement said he had already been buried, accused him of association with an ethnic armed group and made no mention of his credentials as a journalist.

After his body was exhumed in early November, some observers said they found signs of torture, a claim that was denied by an investigation led by the government-backed Myanmar National Human Rights Commission.

A court inquiry into the circumstances surrounding his death began earlier this year after months of delay, which the victim’s widow, a well-known human rights activist named Ma Thandar, attributed to the government’s reluctance to cooperate.

Following Tuesday’s verdict, Ma Thandar said she was not satisfied with the ruling, which failed to hold anyone accountable for the death of her husband.
“The court said we can try again at a higher court if we wish,” Ma Thandar said. “Personally, I will face many hardships to come, because the two soldiers who shot him were acquitted.”

Ma Thandar said she plans to appeal to higher courts with the help of her lawyer, well-known human rights litigator Robert San Aung, who vowed to continue his pursuit of justice in the case. He doubted, however, whether that would be possible in Burma’s civilian court system.

“We will try to re-submit the case,” Robert San Aung told The Irrawaddy, “but we are not sure whether the court will accept it, or whether the culprits will be punished, because they are Burma Army soldiers who have already been acquitted.”