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Wife of slain Myanmar reporter decries army acquittals

May 12, 2015

The wife of a reporter shot dead by Myanmar’s army slammed military impunity in the former junta-run nation on Tuesday, after a human rights body said two soldiers were acquitted by a court martial.

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

The military admitted the killing, but said he was working for an armed ethnic group at the time — a charge his family rejects.

According to the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, a nominally independent agency, two army guards were tried by court martial and cleared under security provisions.

It said the case was held in accordance with Myanmar’s constitution, which was drafted by the country’s former military rulers.

“I want to ask whether the 2008 constitution protects just the military, but not civilians,” Aung Naing’s wife Thandar told AFP.

She added that she planned to complain in writing to the country’s powerful army chief and the ministry of defence.

But she said she had little hope of success, in a country where the army remains shielded from civilian oversight.

“I have known since the beginning that it is very unlikely I would get the truth because rule of law is very weak in Myanmar and so is the judicial system. Plus I am facing the military,” she said.

The country’s human rights commission, which has previously called for a trial in a civilian court in the spirit of transparency, released a statement on May 8 announcing the result of the court martial.

It did not say whether any further investigation was expected in the case.

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.

He 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.

The case was raised by US President Barack Obama during a visit to Myanmar last November.

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

Aung Naing’s body was exhumed from a shallow grave near Kyaikmaraw in November after an outcry that prompted authorities to allow the human rights commission to investigate.

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

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