On This Day

The Day Myanmar’s Military Shot Dead a Japanese Photographer

By Wei Yan Aung 27 September 2019

Yangon – Twelve years ago on this day, Japanese photojournalist Kenji Nagai of Tokyo APF was shot dead as he was covering the Saffron Revolution against military rule in downtown Yangon.

The 50-year-old photojournalist was shot at point-blank range by a Myanmar soldier while he was photographing the anti-government protests as troops opened fire on demonstrators at the corner of Sule Pagoda Road and Anawrahta Road.

A photo and video of Nagai dying with his camera in his hand went viral across the world, turning the spotlight on the military regime’s violent crackdown on peaceful protesters.

His death was the first of a foreign journalist during the government’s crackdowns on protests.

Reuters photographer Adrees Latif’s picture showing Nagai lying on the pavement before his death won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography in 2008.

The family of Kenji Nagai has lobbied for the truth about the death. At a 2011 Asean summit the then Japanese prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, discussed the investigation and return of Nagai’s camera with Myanmar’s then president, U Thein Sein. The president said the government had been striving for an investigation and cooperation with Japan but the authorities had not found Nagai’s belongings, adding that he was pained by the journalist’s death.

In September 2017, Noriko Ogawa, the sister of Kenji Nagai, on the 10th anniversary of her brother’s death, sent a letter to Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to demand acknowledgement from the Myanmar government that her brother’s death was the result of a deliberate shot and that there had been no concrete action taken on the issue.