Police Officer in Charge for NLD Lawyer’s Killing Left Unpunished and Promoted

By The Irrawaddy 31 January 2022

Five years after prominent lawyer U Ko Ni, the legal advisor to the National League for Democracy Party, was shot dead in broad daylight at Yangon International Airport, the mastermind behind his killing – Aung Win Khaing – is still at large.

At the same time, the police officer who was responsible for Yangon Airport’s security at the time of U Ko Ni’s assassination has been rapidly promoted over the past five years, despite the fact that he is a former classmate of the main culprits in the killing of the lawyer.

Win Min Thein was a police colonel when U Ko Ni was assassinated, but has since been promoted to police brigadier-general and appointed the head of the No. 2 Security Police Force, a rank higher than that of the chief of the Yangon Police.

Such a rapid promotion is rare in the history of Myanmar’s Police Force, said a retired police colonel.

Win Min Thein was a member of the 36th class at the Defence Services Academy, where he was the classmate of Aung Win Khaing and Zeya Phyo, the main culprits in the assassination of U Ko Ni.

He was also the classmate of Colonel Lin Zaw Htun, who once served as coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing’s personal staff officer.

In 2011, Win Min Thein was transferred to the Myanmar Police Force as a police captain and assigned to provide security for Myanmar’s newly-built parliament in the capital Naypyitaw. Two years later, he was transferred to the Yangon Region Special Branch (SB).

By the time of the 2015 general election, Win Min Thein, then a police colonel, was in charge of the Yangon Region SB.

Subsequently, he was promoted to a section head of the Aviation Police Force, taking the helm of the security forces at Yangon International Airport, Myanmar’s principal airport. U Ko Ni was killed at the airport on January 29, 2017 while Win Min Thein was serving as the head of the airport security force.

Normally, a crime committed at such an important place would spell the end of the career for the police officer responsible for its security, said the retired police officer. But in the case of Win Min Thein, far from being punished, he has since been promoted.

One year after U Ko Ni’s assassination, he was promoted to deputy chief of the Yangon Region Police Force. Another year later, in 2019, he was promoted to be chief of the Naypyitaw Police Force. In 2020, he was promoted again to police brigadier-general and became the chief of the No. 2 Security Police Force.

For a police officer to rise from captain to brigadier-general in ten years is rare. Those inside the police force believe that Win Min Thein received such rapid promotion because he is a member of Snr-Gen. Min Aung Hlaing’s inner circle.

The coup leader has transferred some of his confidants to the police force to strengthen his position in the country’s most powerful armed organization after the military, police sources said.

There are seven police battalions in the No. 2 Security Police Force headed by Win Min Thein. Police under the No. 2 Security Police Force are tasked with two main duties: crowd control in the case of riots, protests and demonstrations and providing security for important buildings and foreign missions.

Win Min Thein supervised the lethal crackdowns on anti-coup protests in Yangon following the junta’s takeover on February 1 last year. Watching the protests on CCTV cameras at the police control center, Win Min Thein gave instructions to police on how to disperse the demonstrators.

He has previously rebuked police chiefs who failed to act on his orders, said a striking police officer from the Yangon Region Police Force. “He was watching on CCTV cameras. And he scolded people when shots were fired in the air, instead of being aimed at the protesters,” he said.

Win Min Thein and the current commander of the Myanmar military’s Yangon Region Command, Major-General Nyunt Win Swe, were also both in the same class at the Defence Services Academy.

As the security police force does not have enough members to disperse anti-coup protesters, Win Min Thein has also commanded police from local police stations.

Win Min Thein, who is 50, will be appointed to a high-ranking position in the Myanmar Police Force if Snr-Gen. Min Aung Hlaing becomes president, suggested retired police officers.

The coup leader is planning to hold a general election in August next year, and is pushing to replace the first-past-the-post electoral system with a proportional representation system which is expected to allow him to contest the presidency.

As the military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party choice for president, Snr-Gen. Min Aung Hlaing needs only 26 per cent of the vote to form a government, as 25 per cent of seats in the national legislature are guaranteed for military appointees under the army-written 2008 Constitution.

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