Burma: reporter killed while in military custodyEvent
- Event Description
Crowds gathered in downtown Rangoon on Sunday the 26th October to demand a full investigation into the death of freelance reporter Aung Kyaw Naing, commonly known as Par Gyi, who was reportedly killed in custody of the Burma Army. On Friday, news emerged that the Interim Myanmar Press Council had been notified by the military that Par Gyi had been abducted in Mon State on Sept. 30, interrogated and later killed, with the army claiming that he was affiliated with a Karen rebel group. The military's statement said that on Oct. 4, Par Gyi "tried to seize a gun from a guard and run away; then he was shot dead by the guard." His body was buried and his family was not notified. Concerned citizens reacted quickly, gathering in front of Rangoon's City Hall, some carrying placards reading, "Restore justice and security for citizens" and "Stop brutality." "Ko Par Gyi is a journalist, a politician and a citizen," said Ko Ko Gyi, a prominent activist and leader of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society movement. "His death shows that we do not have protection of the law." Ko Ko Gyi added that the statement produced by the Burma Army was sent to the Press Council nearly one month after Par Gyi's disappearance, suggesting that the government may have been concealing abuses and must provide answers to the public. "This case shows that the army is clearly abusing human rights," he said. "If they do not take action and reform, there will be a confrontation between the citizens and the army." Some protesters said that what happened to Par Gyi is not uncommon in conflict-affected ethnic areas, but that the case should be considered an alarm for citizens and an opportunity to demand justice. UPDATE 6th November: The body of a Myanmar journalist killed in military detention showed signs of trauma consistent with torture, according to a lawyer representing the reporter's widow, after it was exhumed by a forensics team Wednesday 5th November as part of an investigation into his mysterious death. Around 100 people gathered at the shallow grave site in Kyaikmayaw township in southeastern Myanmar's Mon state to witness the exhumation of freelance reporter Aung Kyaw Naing-also known as Par Gyi-including his widow Ma Thanda, political activists, lawyers and authorities. Members of the Myanmar military directed the group to the site. After the body was removed from the grave it was taken to the General Hospital in the Mon state capital Moulemein for further examination to confirm the identity and to determine the cause of death. Lawyer Robert San Aung, who is representing Ma Thanda and who was present at the exhumation, told RFA's Myanmar Service that Aung Kyaw Naing had likely died "as a result of torture" based on the appearance of his corpse. "Upon observing the body, the injuries indicate that his death was caused by excessive torture," he said. "This[conclusion] is based on my whole life of experience and on the science of criminal cases. It is also because there did not seem to be any gunshot wounds on his body." Robert San Aung rejected claims by the military that Aung Kyaw Naing had been given a proper burial after his death. "The burial site was about 800 meters (half a mile) from the village of Shwe Wa Chaung-one has to walk quite a ways to get there. It is on farmland and there are bushes around it," he said. "It is not in the village cemetery at all. That is why we reject the statement that a proper burial was given. There was no coffin or even a bamboo mat in the grave." The lawyer said that Aung Kyaw Naing's body was buried under "no more than one foot (30 centimeters) of earth" and had been interred with his clothing on. He said the body would undergo an autopsy and then be returned to Aung Kyaw Naing's home in Myanmar's commercial capital Yangon for burial with the assistance of the city's Free Funeral Services Society. A report by the Democratic Voice of Burma quoted eyewitness Nay Myo Zin from local civil society group Myanmar Social Life Development Network as saying that the corpse showed signs of a broken jaw, a caved-in skull and swelling on the torso indicating broken ribs. "It is completely clear that Ko Par Gyi was tortured," he told DVB. Aung Kyaw Naing's widow, Ma Thanda, confirmed that the body was that of her husband, the report said. Wednesday's exhumation is believed to be the first time that Myanmar's Army has ever fulfilled a request to produce the body of a civilian casualty. Aung Kyaw Naing was killed in military detention last month after documenting clashes between government forces and rebels in Mon state, according to reports. The Ministry of Defense had said that he was shot dead on Oct. 4 while trying to escape military custody in Mon state's Kyaikmaraw township, accusing him of being an information officer for a branch of the rebel Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA). The DKBA however disavowed any links with Aung Kyaw Naing, who had served as a bodyguard for opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in the 1980s. On Oct. 31, President Thein Sein ordered Myanmar's National Human Rights Commission to fully investigate the case after immense public outrage and calls from foreign entities. The order followed a complaint filed by Ma Thanda at the Kyaikmaraw township police station, demanding that authorities conduct an investigation into the death of her husband, and calling on the authorities to exhume the body in her presence as part of the probe. Local and International nongovernmental organizations, including Thailand-based Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners (AAPP) and New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), had dismissed the Defense Ministry's statement and joined in the call for a probe into the killing. Civil society groups had also held mass protests in Yangon and in the northern city of Mandalay over the killing, demanding an immediate and independent probe. UPDATE: 12/ 05/ 2015 A military court's decision to acquit and unconditionally free two Myanmar soldiers accused of killing a freelance journalist prompted his widow and lawyer on Monday to vow to appeal the case to higher authorities, following a hearing on the case in a southeastern province. Reporter Aung Kyaw Naing-also known as Par Gyi-died in military custody last October after he was arrested while covering fighting between the government army and Karen ethnic rebels in southeastern Myanmar's Mon state. The country's Ministry of Defense said he was shot to death by government soldiers who claimed the journalist was trying to flee custody because he was an information officer with the rank of captain in the Karen armed ethnic rebel group. Doctors who performed an autopsy on his exhumed corpse last November found that five gunshot wounds, including one on Par Gyi's chin, two on his chest, and one each on his thigh and heel, caused his death, and that his corpse showed signs of torture.The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission[MHRC] conducted an investigation and recommended the case be heard in a civilian court. But the military overruled and said it would be held in a military court because Aung Kyaw Naing died during conflict. "We will let the president, commander-in-chief and people from the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission know about it," said Robert San Aung, the prosecuting lawyer representing Aung Kyaw Naing's widow Thandar, referring to the disputability of the military court's decision under the country's constitution. He made the comment to RFA's Myanmar Service during the latest hearing related to the case at Kyaikmayaw township court in Mon state. Thandar said she would send a letter to Senior General Min Aung Hlaing because the military court released the two soldiers, Lance-corporal Kyaw Kyaw Aung and Private Naing Lin Htun, accused of murdering her husband. "Although I filed a case on behalf of Par Gyi's death, I am a witness, and deputy chief of police Tin Oo of Kyaikmayaw township is a plaintiff today," she told RFA's Myanmar Service. " I have to testify about everything I have done. I have seen and heard about his case." Differences in testimony results The hearing came about after the MHRC report issued on May 8 noting differences in the results of testimony by division military headquarters and what the prosecuting attorney had.For example, when the trial of the two accused soldiers was set at a military court, the chairman of military court, Colonel Win Zaw Oo, said Par Gyi was shot by a lance corporal, said Robert San Aung. "We complained that the wound should be in the back or side if he was shot by a lance corporal, but why did he have a wound under his chin?" he said. " The military official couldn't answer our question."The trail was set after a week so that the military officials would have time to provide answers, he added."Actually, the chairman of the military court, Colonel Win Zaw Oo, should take action against these military officials according to their testimonies that day," he said. The two military officials said Aung Kyaw Naing snatched a gun from one soldier, which discharged and shot him, Robert San Aung said."Even if it is true, Par Gyi should be have been dead at that point from the bullet that went into his chin and exited his head, but he was shot with many other bullets again," he said. "It is not reasonable."The testimonies were approved by division military headquarters, but not yet by the commander-in-chief. We are going to request a new trial or that the case be handed over to a civilian court." Thandar blasted the MHRC report, saying it was neither comprehensive nor impartial, and called for a new and independent investigation into her husband's death, Democratic Voice of Burma reported.MHRC chairman Sit Myint told RFA that his organization recommended that Aung Kyaw Naing's murder be held in a civilian court according to the constitution and to ensure transparency. The commission then submitted the latest information it had on the case to the Ministry of Defense. "We examined and searched the details everything related to this case and put what we saw in our report, he said. "The military court did that case within the power and rights it has. We[the commission] can't do anything more than what we have done. I don't know what the lawmakers will do for the next step."He pointed out that the commission could not request a new trial on the case that was already made under orders from military or civilian courts."It is almost impossible that we can do something about that case," he said. UPDATE: 27/ 05/ 2015 Fifth civilian court hearing in Par Gyi case The fifth court hearing into the killing of freelance reporter Par Gyi took place at Mon State's Kyeikmayaw township court on Monday. "The court in the hearing today heard accounts from four civilian witnesses, two of whom were eye witnesses. They all testified," Ma Thandar, Par Gyi's widow, told DVB on Monday. A date was also set for the next hearing, which will take place on 1 June. Par Gyi, also known as Aung Kyaw Naing, was killed in military custody in September after being arrested by government forces while embedded with the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army. The Burmese army said he was shot while trying to escape, but the injuries discovered when his body was finally exhumed after a long campaign by his widow Ma Thandar were not concurrent with that version of events. subsequent investigation by Myanmar Human Rights Commission proposed that the case should be heard in a civilian court. However, the military overruled that recommendation, insisting it would instead be heard in a military court as the death occurred during conflict, resulting in two parallel cases. Ma Thandar said that she sent a letter of complaint to government bodies following the acquittal of two servicemen of charges relating to Par Gyi's killing by a military on earlier this month. Lance-Cpl Kyaw Kyaw Aung and Pvt. Naing Lin Htun on 8 May were released unconditionally by a martial court after being detained under Article 71 of the Military Code (court martial procedures) and Section 304 of the Penal Code (culpable homicide). Ma Thandar said she wrote to 21 different government departments, including the President's Office, the office of the commander-in-chief, and the parliamentary Rule of Law and Tranquillity Committee, led by National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. "I sent out a letter complaining about the army's claim that the two servicemen had been acquitted in accordance with the 2008 Constitution. I want to point out that in that case, the 2008 Constitution can only protect soldiers but not civilians. My husband was arrested in a crowded downtown area, and no legal procedures were followed throughout his interrogation. "He was not charged in accordance with the law, but the soldiers who caused his death were apparently released in accordance with the 2008 Constitution," said Ma Thandar. Previous hearings were held at the Kyeikmayaw court on 10, 23 and 30 April, and 11 May.
- Impact of Event
- Arbitrary arrest and detention
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On October 4th 2014, freelance reporter Aung Kyaw Naing (commonly known as Par Gyi) was reportedly killed while in the custody of the Burma Army. He had been abducted by the Army on the 30th September 2014 after being accused of affiliations with a Karen rebel group. His family was not notified of his death. UPDATE 6th November: On the 5th November 2014, an exhumation of Par Gyi's body was carried out by a forensics team as part of an investigation into his mysterious death. According to a lawyer representing the dead journalist's wife, his body showed signs of trauma consistent with torture, and said that he likely died from this treatment.