02/27/2017, 16.05
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For Aung San Suu Kyi, Muslim lawyer's death is a "great loss" for Myanmar

After almost a month of silence, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Foreign Minister speaks about the murder of Ko Ni. For the NLD leader, he is a "martyr" who spent his life to better the country. Mr Ni however also criticised the ruling party over the rising "Islamophobia".

Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Aung San Suu Kyi broke her silence over the assassination of Ko Ni, a top Muslim constitutional and human rights lawyer.

His death, said Ms Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s foreign minister and state counsellor, is “a great loss” not only for the National League for Democracy (NLD), but for the country as a whole.

She noted that the slain lawyer worked with the NLD for many years, describing him as a “martyr” for dedicating his life to the betterment of the country.

Mr Ni was assassinated in late January at Yangon International Airport on his way back from a conference on human rights in Indonesia. His death caused consternation and outrage in Myanmar and around the world.

In the past, he had backed the cause of the Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim minority living in the western state of Rakhine, not recognised by the government. However, his murder appears to be related to his legal and political work, which made him unpopular in military circles.

As a constitutional lawyer, he worked as a consultant for the NLD, which took power after decades of opposition to the military. As such, he was a close adviser to Aung San Suu Kyi.

One of Ni’s many battles, perhaps the most important and the one that cost him his life, was reforming the constitution imposed by the military in a phoney referendum in 2008 in the middle of the emergency situation caused by Cyclone Nargis.

More than two weeks after his death, a statement issued by the President's Office said retired Lt-Col Aung Win Khaing hired the hitman who killed Ni in order to “destabilise” the country.

Almost a month later, Aung San Suu Kyi publicly expressed sadness and sorrow over Ko Ni’s death. At the memorial service, the NLD leader bemoaned the "great loss" for Myanmar.

The ruling NLD had earlier described the killing as a political assassination and a “terrorist act” against constitutional reform.

Yet, Ko Ni had himself had also criticised the NLD for not fielding Muslim candidates in elections and condemned the increasing Islamophobia that has swept through the nation in recent years, stirred up by Buddhist nationalists – some connected to the ruling party.

By participating in the memorial service in one of her few public appearances, Suu Kyi appealed for patience.

Arguing that her government has only been in power for ten months after decades of junta rule, she noted that the path of reform will still require a lot of time.

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