RANGOON — The body of journalist Aung Kyaw Naing, who was killed by the Burma Army early last month, was brought to Rangoon by his family and laid to rest in a tomb at Yay Way cemetery on Friday.
Hundreds of people attended the funeral to pay their respects to the slain reporter, including National League for Democracy (NLD) patron Tin Oo, prominent leaders of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi, and dozens of activists and other mourners.
NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi sent her condolences and a bouquet of flowers to honor Aung Kyaw Naing, better known as Par Gyi, who for several years was a member of her bodyguard. Numerous bouquets of flowers, wreaths and messages of condolences were placed at his grave on Friday evening, while Buddhist monks performed funeral rites.
Some two dozen activists and students gathered near the funeral and staged a small demonstration that called for justice in the case of the killing, with some holding up placards that read: ‘Does the Army Have a License to Kill?’
Speaking at the funeral, Ko Ko Gyi said the killing was a clear example of the lack of rule of law in Burma and would be a test of the independence of the country’s court system, which is viewed as being influenced by the government and army.
“This is a case that challenges how much rule of law Myanmar has. This is a challenge that the local and international community has to keep an eye on,” he said.
Ko Ko Gyi said extrajudicial killings by authorities have long been common in Burma, adding that often these cases were covered up with excuses by officials. “Actually, there are lots of similar cases [of killings] in the ethnic border areas. Some people were reported [by authorities] as being killed because they ran away while they were in prison,” he said.
The body of Aung Kyaw Naing was exhumed on Wednesday afternoon from a grave in Shwe War Chaung Village in Kyeikmayaw Township in Mon State, after the government ordered the National Human Rights Commission to investigate his death.
The freelance reporter disappeared while covering the fighting between Karen rebels and the army in late September. The army said in a statement later it had apprehended, interrogate and on Oct. 4 shot him, purportedly because he had seized a weapon from a soldier in an attempt to flee.
His death drew widespread local and international criticism as a gross rights violation and an extrajudicial killing by the Burma Army.
After he had disappeared, his wife Thandar and activists visited Mon State to talk to the army and authorities, but were turned away. After his wife went public with the disappearance, the army sent a statement regarding his killing to reporters and said he had been buried in a remote village.
The reporter’s family and activists demanded his body be exhumed and returned to Rangoon.
On Friday morning, Mon State municipal authorities had tried to prevent the family from taking his body to Rangoon, insisting for some unknown reason that he had to be buried in Moulmein. His family members took him to Rangoon regardless.