By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Asia
NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar- A prominent human rights lawyer was fatally shot outside Yangon International Airport on January 29. U Ko Ni was holding his grandson when he was shot in the head at close range. Mr. Ko Ni served as a legal adviser to Myanmar’s leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Mr. Ko Ni, a Muslim attorney and a member of the National League for Democracy, was returning home from a government-organized trip to Indonesia, where he attended a panel to discuss democracy and conflict resolution strategies.
UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee, a human rights expert, has strongly condemned the murder of Mr. Ko Ni. A suspect has been taken into custody but a motive has yet to be determined.
Mr. Ko Ni was known for speaking out against the Nationality Law, which stripped the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group, of citizenship. Tensions have risen between the Myanmar government and Rohingya in recent months. In October 2016, members of a Rohingya insurgent group attacked border control officers, killing nine. The attack led to a drawn out offensive by Myanmar’s government to demilitarize the Rohingya insurgency, an effort which persists today.
Recent concerns arose out of reports claiming that soldiers are engaging in human rights offenses. Human rights groups have received reports of killings of unarmed men, burnings of civilian homes, and even accounts of rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar soldiers. The Myanmar government has denied allegations that its military is committing violent acts against civilians. The government has denied journalists and human rights investigators access to its villages. An estimated 65,000 Rohingya people have fled into Bangladesh, where refugee camps have been established.
Despite the government’s statements, a video surfaced on January 3, 2017, that appears to show Myanmar border police beating unarmed men. Though four officers have been detained by the government, Myanmar’s leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has faced much criticism for a failure to respond more vehemently to these incidents and allegations.
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