02/02/2017, 16.52
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Police arrest the instigator of the murder of Ko Ni, a Muslim lawyer friend of Aung San Suu Kyi

Myint Swe was arrested near the Thai border. The NLD calls the crime a political assassination and a “terrorist attack”. For the UN, it is an act retaliation. Radical Buddhist Ma Ba Tha group sends its condolences. Source tells AsiaNews that the victim was killed because he was involved in rewriting the constitution.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – Myanmar police have arrested a second suspect in connection with the assassination of Ko Ni, a Muslim lawyer and activist, shot to death last Sunday (29 January) at Yangon airport.

According to media reports, not confirmed by police, Myint Swe – this is the name of the suspect - was arrested on Monday in Karen State, south-eastern Myanmar, near the Thai border. He allegedly hired a man to carry out the assassination, 53-year-old Kyi Lin who was detained soon after the crime.

Ko Ni’s murder has sent shockwaves and caused widespread outrage in Myanmar and the international community, particularly among human rights activists.

The 63-year-old Muslim lawyer, a former consultant with the National League for Democracy (NLD), was killed on his return from an interfaith forum on tolerance and reconciliation, held recently in Indonesia.

He specialised in constitutional law and had repeatedly slammed the military for interfering in politics.

Even though the Myanmar government is in the hands of civilians, 25 per cent of parliamentary seats are held by Armed Forces and constitutional amendments are subject to agreement from the generals.

As an experienced constitutionalist, Ni worked with Aung San Suu Kyi's party in an attempt to find a legal way to change the country's constitution, introduced by the military and approved in a phoney referendum in 2008 during the Cyclone Nargis emergency.

Ko Ni was also a supporter of the Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim minority in the western state of Rakhine, not recognised by the government.

Despite this, Myanmar’s ultranationalist Buddhist Ma Ba Tha group, which has been accused of orchestrating sectarian violence behind the scenes, issued a statement expressing its condolences for the death of Muslim lawyer.

This leads some to believe that politics, not religion was not behind the murder. Anonymous sources in Myanmar told AsiaNews that "the hands of the military seem to be behind the murder. Ko Ni had worked on changing the constitution, and was also involved in rewriting it. This is why he was killed."

Yesterday, some local and international media reported the arrest of Myint Swe, who hired Kyi Lin to carry out the murder.

Under questioning by police, he did not explain the reasons why he wanted the Muslim lawyer's death.

Conversely, in his interrogation, Kyi Lin indicated that the killing was aimed at destabilising the state without going into details.

In a statement, the NLD spoke about Ko Ni’s commitment to democracy and the harmonious development of Myanmar.

For the governing party, the murder was politically motived and a "terrorist attack" against the country. Even the UN special envoy to Myanmar strongly condemned the killing. calling it an "act of retaliation".

Ko Ni was buried on Tuesday in an Islamic cemetery on the outskirts of Yangon. Thousands of people, mostly ordinary citizens, attended the funeral (pictured).

Meanwhile, more information about the alleged murderer have been made public. Kyi Lin hails from Yinmabin (Sagaing Region), and served two years and seven months in prison for stealing Buddha statues in Mandalay in 1985.

He went back to jail in 2003 for smuggling relics and Buddha statues across the border. Sentenced to 20 years, he was released in 2014 following a presidential pardon. At present, he is in custody at the police station of Mingaladon, 15 km north of Yangon.

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