He was shot in the head at the city airport by 53 year old Kyi Lin, a native of Mandalay. Motive for murder unknown. Constitutional law expert, he was jailed during protests of 1988. Recently, he had spoken out against violence against Rohingya.
Yangon (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A prominent Burmese lawyer, a Muslim, was shot dead at Yangon International Airport, Myanmar. The murder took place yesterday and caused a stir: in addition to being a prominent personality of the Islamic community in a predominantly Buddhist nation, Ko Ni was also a consultant of the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party of Aung San Suu Kyi now in power.
According to witnesses, the killer opened fire at point-blank range against the lawyer and activist, a few minutes after his arrival at the airport. When he was hit, Ko Ni had a child is his arms, maybe a grandchild.
A taxi driver, hit by stray bullets, has also died.
The Burmese police have arrested a suspect: 53 year old Kyi Lin, a native of Mandalay, in the center of the country. However, so far there are no further details on the reasons which prompted the man - interrogated at this time - to shoot and kill.
Political murders are very rare in Myanmar. There have been months of violence against the minority Muslim Rohingya in western Rakhine State, but many do not believe the assassination is sectarian.
His daughter Yin Khine New reports that he was "often threatened" for having condemned the great influence, even today, of the military on the national political scene. In fact, despite the fact that today Myanmar is led by a secular and civil party, 25% of seats in parliament remain the preserve of the army and any constitutional amendment is subject to the generals agreement.
However, his daughter does not exclude sectarian motivations. "Many people - she says - hate us because we have a different religion, so this could be one of the reasons why it happened, but there are no certainties."
In 1988 he participated in the student revolts and was jailed as a political prisoner. A constitutional law expert, he had collaborated with the leaders of the NLD to change the plan enacted by the military. In the recent past he had campaigned in favor of the persecuted Muslims, demanding rights and justice for all.
This had won him many enemies both from the political and confessional point of view. Kyee Myint, former president of Myanmar Lawyer Network, defines Ko Ni as "a close friend" whose face "was the true expression of democracy in the country." His death, he added, is "a great loss for everyone."
Activists and international NGOs have condemned the murder at this time and launched appeals to the government of Myanmar and the police, to ensure the guilty receive justice and clarify the real motives behind the assassination.