US, UK Embassies Urge Govt Inquiry Into Journalist’s Killing

By Kyaw Phyo Tha & Nobel Zaw 29 October 2014

RANGOON — The embassies of the United States and Britain have called on the Burmese government to launch a transparent investigation into the recent killing of a local journalist by the Burma Army.

The US Embassy said in a statement that it is “deeply concerned and saddened” by the reports of the death of journalist Aung Kaw Naing, also known as Par Gyi, while in custody of the Burma Army in early October.

“We have raised serious concern with the government on the matter,” the embassy said. “We call on the government to conduct a credible and transparent investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death, and to hold the perpetrators accountable.”

The statement added that the recent killing signaled the need for better protection for journalists exercising press freedom in Burma.

The British Embassy told The Irrawaddy in a comment, “We are concerned by the circumstances of his death, and think that a full investigation would help re-assure people about what happened.”

Unesco’s office in Burma, which has programs to supporting media organizations in the country, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Last Friday, the Interim Myanmar Press Council said it received a letter from the military stating that the journalist had been arrested by soldiers in Mon State on Sept. 30, interrogated and later killed. The letter claimed Aung Kaw Naing belonged to a Karen rebel group and that he had been shot when he tried to seize a weapon from a soldier.

Than Dar, the wife of Aung Kyaw Naing, has said he had been reporting on an outbreak of clashes between the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) and the military in southeastern Burma. She denied that he belonged to the DKBA, as did a representative of the armed group.

Aung Kyaw Naing was a rights activist and a body guard of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi for many years before becoming a freelance reporter contributing to several Rangoon-based news publications.

In recent days, several international human rights groups and media freedom organizations have condemned the murder and called for a full investigation.

Senior government officials have, however, been silent about the killing. The Irrawaddy has repeatedly tried to contact Minister of Information Ye Htut since news of the murder emerged, but emails and phone calls to the minister have gone unanswered.

Myanmar Press Council members contacted on Wednesday declined to answer questions on behalf of the council on whether the government was taking appropriate steps to deal with the killing. They referred back to a council statement from Sunday, which merely said the slain journalist “is a citizen of Myanmar and the Myanmar Press Council believes that he deserves the same rights as any citizen.”

Pho Thauk Kya, a veteran local journalist, said there was a need for the government to soon announce that it would conduct a transparent investigation.

“I want to tell my government that they need to take action immediately,” he said. “The responsible person, responsible government official for this case should speak out.”