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Wife of slain Myanmar reporter slams inquiry into death

December 3, 2014

The wife of a reporter shot dead by Myanmar’s military criticised on Wednesday an official inquiry into his death, adding her voice to calls for an independent probe into the killing.

Freelance journalist Aung Naing, who was also known as Par Gyi, was shot repeatedly by troops in a volatile southeastern border region in October.

His case was raised by US President Barack Obama during a visit to Myanmar last month.

Myanmar’s National Human Rights Commission on Tuesday said the army’s acknowledgement that the journalist had been shot while in its custody was not “released in a timely and transparent” fashion.

It recommended the case be prosecuted in a civilian court — unusual for incidents involving the powerful military.

But Aung Naing’s wife Thandar rejected the report by the state-run body, which is dominated by former army figures, as insufficient.

“I hardly believed that the human rights commission could help because they have not been able to solve other cases involving the army,” she told AFP on Wednesday.

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 case has added to fears over the erosion of media freedoms won since the country began emerging from outright military rule in 2011.

Obama raised the shooting before his visit to Myanmar, telling the Irrawaddy news website the reporter was “tragically and senselessly murdered”.

The family’s lawyer Robert San Aung said he plans to write to Myanmar’s President Thein Sein to call for a further investigation.

“We will ask for an independent body to conduct the next inquiry,” he said.

Aung Naing was gunned down as he tried to flee detention in the town of Kyaikmaraw in Mon state on October 4, according to a military statement.

His body was exhumed from a shallow grave nearby in November after an outcry that prompted authorities to allow the human rights commission investigation.

Their report detailed bullet wounds to the skull, chin, torso and legs, but said there was no witness testimony that he was tortured.

The rights body interviewed some 20 army personnel as well as police, doctors and members of the local ethnic Mon rebel group. It said police should investigate and send the case to the local court in order to achieve transparency.

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