Legal Action to be Taken Against Nationalist Supporters at U Ko Ni Trial

By Htun Htun 9 February 2018

YANGON — Permanent secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs U Tin Myint said that legal action will be taken against the supporters of gunman Kyi Lin and alleged co-conspirators at last Friday’s court hearing for slain prominent Muslim lawyer U Ko Ni.

Before the hearing on Feb. 2 at Yangon’s Northern District Court, a small group of nationalists appeared wearing t-shirts reading: “Eat Well!” to show their support for the four detained suspects accused of involvement in the assassination of U Ko Ni. The phrase in Burmese is used as a threat to show one’s anger and to warn of impending revenge.

The defendants also allegedly shouted the phrase “Eat well” at reporters and the plaintiff’s lawyers outside the court last month. The phrase was used by the nationalists to show support for the detainees: gunman Kyi Lin and co-conspirators: Zeya Phyo, Aung Win Zaw and Aung Win Tun.

Shortly after photos of the nationalists went viral, netizens heavily denounced their actions as undermining rule of law and the nation’s stability.

Lawyers organizations also released a statement condemning the behavior of the nationalists as “an insult to the whole judicial system” and a threat not only to the reporters who followed the case, but to the lawyers and the judge. The lawyers urged the government to take action.

“It is a death threat. That’s why we accepted the complaint and opened the case,” the permanent secretary U Tin Myint said, adding that the case will be carried out in accordance with the law.

Insein Township administrator U Aye Min filed the case against four men for intimidation inside the court compound directly to the Insein Township Court on Tuesday.

The court issued arrest warrants for the four under the incitement charges of the Penal Code’s Article 505 (b) and the threat of injury to public servant charges under Article 189.

Two of the four: Myat Phone Moh and Tin Htay Aung, were also among those involved in a violent confrontation between Muslims and Buddhists in Yangon’s Mingalar Taung Nyunt Township last May. They were arrested and sentenced for incitement to commit violence at that time.

“We believe he [gunman Kyi Lin] did the right thing. That’s why we support him. We have no other intention,” Myat Phone Moh said at the court.

The ultranationalist monk U Wirathu has also voiced his support for the accused nationalists in a video uploaded on Naing Wynn Tun’s Facebook account on Wednesday.

“Can’t we even say ‘Eat Well’ in a democracy? What is the democracy and human rights that lobbyists are talking about? ” the monk asked in the video.

He also asked whether it is a democracy that bans those who write, preach and speak against the government.

“I will say to those who insulted supporters ‘eat well,’ those who blame monks ‘eat well’ and those who block sermons ‘eat well.’ As you can’t eat in hell,” he said, during the seven-minute video.

The infamous monk was banned from delivering sermons across the country for one year last March, due to his religious hate speech. His Facebook account was also temporarily shut down in last July.

Translated from Burmese by San Yamin Aung.