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Wife to exhume body of journalist shot dead by Myanmar army

November 3, 2014

The wife of a journalist shot dead by Myanmar’s army said Monday she had been granted permission by police to exhume his body, after the government announced an inquiry into the killing in the face of international concern.

Freelance journalist and democracy activist Aung Naing was gunned down by soldiers while in military custody in the volatile eastern border region, where fighting between the army and rebels has flared in recent weeks.

The United States last week called on Myanmar to conduct a “credible and transparent investigation” into the killing, as the fast-changing former pariah nation faces increased scrutiny ahead of a visit by US president Barack Obama and other world leaders for a regional summit in mid-November.

The reporter’s wife, Thandar, said she had been informed by police in the town of Kyaikmaraw in Mon State that she would be allowed to exhume her husband’s body on Wednesday.

“I do not know what I am going to face,” she told AFP, adding that police had not given her further details of whether an autopsy, or the removal of the body to Yangon would be permitted.

But she said she was determined to discover what had happened to her husband.

“Everyone with family can understand my pain — truth is the only strength I have,” she said.

In one of its few public statements since relinquishing outright power to a quasi-civilian government in 2011, the Myanmar military admitted to the October 4 shooting of Aung Naing.

But it accused him of being a member of an armed rebel group — a claim his wife denies.

President Thein Sein last week announced that the country’s human rights commission would investigate the shooting, although there were few details about the scope of the probe in a country where the military was long accustomed to impunity.

Aung Naing was a former member of the democracy movement and acted as a security guard for opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during mass protests in 1988.

His wife said that she had received a message of support from Suu Kyi, who is now an MP, expressing hope that the “truth be revealed”.

Reporters were regularly detained under the former junta, which handed out long jail sentences to journalists while choking off information with some of the world’s most draconian censorship rules.

Reforms implemented by the current regime, including lifting pre-publication press scrutiny, have been praised by the international community as the nation opens up.

However, the jailing of several journalists this year has raised fears that Myanmar could be backsliding on press freedom.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.