U Win Htein Accuses Home Ministry of ‘Fanning the Flames’ of U Ko Ni Assassination

By The Irrawaddy 27 February 2017

RANGOON— U Win Htein, a secretariat member of Burma’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party, said he was disappointed with the press briefing held by the Ministry of Home Affairs on the assassination of the party’s legal advisor U Ko Ni on Saturday.

He said it was “fanning the flames” of public dismay and resembled “those held by [ex-spymaster] Gen Khin Nyunt” in the1990s, in comments to the media at the memorial for U Ko Ni and taxi driver U Nay Win, held by the NLD on Sunday at Rangoon’s Royal Rose restaurant.

The prominent Muslim lawyer U Ko Ni, an expert on Burma’s controversial 2008 Constitution, was shot dead in broad daylight by a gunman on Jan. 29 outside Yangon International Airport. A taxi driver U Nay Win was also fatally shot as he tried to apprehend the assassin.

The home affairs ministry held a press conference on Saturday—a day before the memorial—in which the minister and the police chief described alleged assassins and conspirators as “young men” with “extreme nationalism” that bore a grudge against U Ko Ni.

The suspects named as being involved in the case are 42, 45, 46, and 52 years old.

U Win Htein said the Saturday press conference looked like those held by Gen Khin Nyunt of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in the 1990s when the military had full control of the country.

The former chief of military intelligence unit used those press conferences to accuse political opposition—including the NLD—of collaboration with “overseas anti-government activists and advocates of destruction within the country,” describing them as puppets of the US government.

Most of what he said was met with skepticism by the public.

“The Saturday press conference looked like the ones by Gen Khin Nyunt in the SPDC era: ‘Listen to what we say. It’s up to you whether you believe it or not. That’s all,”’ said U Win Htein.

The ministry also revealed that the third suspect Aung Win Khaing was last seen in the capital city Naypyidaw—the place with the strictest security in the country.

“What was said [at the press briefing] contrasted with what the public was expecting. I think it fanned the flames,” U Win Htein told the media.

U Win Htein said that the words used during the press briefing by the authorities to refer to the motive behind the assassination plan were also “wrong.”

“[The alleged conspirators] are not ‘young’ people,” he said. “This assassination was thoroughly planned by those who are old enough to have common sense and sound judgment,” he said.

U Ko Ni worked together with the NLD to attempt to amend or replace the 2008 constitution that is widely criticized as undemocratic. The 65-year old lawyer was very critical of the country’s military and its grip on Burma’s three powerful ministries: home affairs, border affairs and defense.