Inquiry Into Journalist Killing Could ‘Soon’ Wrap Up: Commission Member

By Zarni Mann 17 November 2014

RANGOON — The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission has questioned dozens of witnesses, including members of the police and Burma Army, as part of its inquiry into the killing of journalist Aung Kyaw Naing and the probe could wrap up “soon,” a commission member said.

Sitt Myaing, secretary of the commission, said it was currently awaiting laboratory results from soil tests of the site where the journalist, also known as Par Gyi, was buried after he was shot dead while in custody of the army in Mon State’s Kyaikmayaw Township in early October.

Sitt Myaing said the commission had collected testimonies from some 45 people, among them civilians, policemen and military officers. He said it would soon interview the journalist’s wife, Ma Thandar, and another journalist, who was among one of three plaintiffs who filed a missing persons report after Aung Kyaw Naing disappeared in late September while covering ethnic conflict.

“We are trying to get everything ready, including the results of the soil tests and the meeting with Ma Thandar and the journalist,” he said. “We are hoping to issue a statement very soon, but we don’t know how long will it take.”

Commission members and authorities exhumed the body of the slain freelance reporter in the presence of his family and rights activists on Nov. 5. Witnesses of the exhumation and photos of his body suggested that he suffered multiple severe injuries, including bullet wounds to the skull.

Sitt Myaing declined to go into details of an autopsy ordered by the commission, but added, “We just can say roughly that the autopsy results found that he died from a bullet wound. We will issue the report after we reviewed the whole case and receive approval at a [commission] meeting.”

Ma Thandar told The Irrawaddy last week that she had been informed by the commission that the autopsy found her husband sustained five bullet wound, including one in the bottom half of his face.

She questioned the military’s statement from October that claimed that Aung Kyaw Naing was killed because he seized a weapon from a soldier while trying to escape; she said it was unlikely he could be shot in the face if he was trying to escape.

Ma Thandar has also said that her requests for an independent autopsy of her husband’s body had been turned down by authorities. Aung Kyaw Naing was laid to rest in Rangoon on Nov. 7.

The commission’s final report will be closely watched as the commission is considered to be lacking in independence from the President’s Office, which funds the commission and can influence the appointment of its members.

Human rights groups have said the commission has failed to successfully investigate the cases submitted to it since it was founded in 2011.