Myanmar LGBT Activists Demand Release of Report on Librarian’s Suicide

By Zue Zue 27 August 2019

YANGON – LGBT activists have called on the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) to disclose the full findings of its investigation into the suicide of librarian Kyaw Zin Win.

The librarian from Myanmar Imperial University (MIU) took his own life in the last week of June after experiencing homophobic bullying by coworkers. A few days later, following a public outcry, the commission announced it would investigate the circumstances surrounding his suicide.

The MNHRC has not published its findings in Kyaw Zin Win’s case, so the LGBT activists held a press briefing on Aug. 26 in Yangon and shared their views on the comments U Yu Lwin Aung made to the media over the past two weeks.

U Yu Lwin Aung’s comments echoed those he made to The Irrawaddy on Aug. 15, in which he said that the MNHRC had found no evidence that Kyaw Zin Win’s suicide was the result of being forced to reveal his sexual orientation or of bullying by coworkers. Rather, he said, the commission’s view was that it had resulted from mental weakness on the part of the young man.

He said at the time that the commission would not publish its report, adding that it was prepared to face any criticism over the decision. “Some are satisfied [with the MHNCR’s actions], some are not. That is human nature and we are ready to face any [criticism].”

The activists urged the commission to publicize its findings.

U Aung Myo Min, the director of Equality Myanmar, said, “The weakness of the [MNHRC’s] report is they are withholding [some things]. The commission’s comments totally omit the fact that he died because he was bullied for being LGBT. [The commissioner] said he killed himself as he was not able to perform his duty well and could not deal with the pressure from work.”

U Aung Myo Min also said Commissioner U Yu Lwin Aung’s comment made to the media that Kyaw Zin Win was “mentally weak” had misleading connotations about the mental health of LGBT people in general.

He said if the investigators had some psychological or medical expertise, he might accept that kind of evaluation, but it is wrong for those without such expertise to make such an evaluation.

“His comments could be interpreted to mean not only that Maung Kyaw Zin Win’s death was due to a mental problem, but also that LGBT people are mentally ill. We totally oppose it, because it also encourages the view that LGBT people are mentally weak and mentally ill,” U Aung Myo Min added.

Whether the implication was intentional or unintentional, he urged the commission to withdraw the comment and apologize.

In addition, there was no mention in the report of the police’s irresponsible behavior with regard to Kyaw Zin Win’s death, said lawyer Daw Zarli Aye. She said police failed to follow their own procedure of submitting their investigation into the death to the court for a ruling. Although it is understandable that the police have not spoken publicly about the case, she said, they should not neglect their duty to the court.

“A person has died. Even if the person’s death is not due to pressure from anyone, it does not end there,” she said. “The state has to protect each and every individual, and the police—on behalf of the state—have to investigate whether the death involved foul play.”

Before his death, Kyaw Zin Win posted screenshots of messages from coworkers bullying him for being gay after a staff meeting at which he was forced to admit his sexual orientation. He bore the bullying “patiently, wishing it would end soon,” he wrote.

The coworker suspected of the bullying, MIU manager Daw Mya Eain Thu, has submitted her resignation. However, the activists said MIU has failed to take responsibility in this case.

Daw Mya Eain Thu has said the comments in screenshots Kyaw Zin Win made were not intended to cause his death. The MHNRC has also said the social media posts were not related to Kyaw Zin Win.

“Kyaw Zin Win left his phone full of information that he wanted to share,” said Ko Tin Ko Ko, program manager of Kings N Queens, an LGBT group, adding the information on the phone explained the reasons for the librarian’s suicide.

“Even if these facts are not the main reasons for the death, they contributed to his decision to kill himself,” U Aung Myo Min said.

“We want the school to fire [Daw Mya Eain Thu]. Resigning is not the same as being fired. The school has not taken any responsibility and wants to show that she resigned, as she was responsible. As the incident originated at the school, the school should take responsibility by issuing a dismissal letter,” Ko Tin Ko Ko said.

The LGBT activists also plan to submit a letter to the President including the facts missing from the commission’s comments, the evidence supporting the reasons for the death of Kyaw Zin Win and the family’s account of the period before his death.