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Burma needs to investigate extrajudicial killing of a journalist

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Burma's self-styled political reform currently is at a track of turnaround. The civilian government led by ex-General Thein Sein wants to maintain the country under make-believe democracy while the majority population desires a genuine change. In particular, citizens are demanding freedom of expression and association while the Government is rigidly vetoing the basic rights of the citizens.

If the junta is sincere regarding democratic reforms, the journalists must be free at the outset since access to information is essential to a healthy democracy. But in Burma, the political opposition as well as journalists and media personnel are under the strictest controls by the quasi-civilian government.

In fact, there has been no enough space for journalists concerning press freedom since the new president has come into office. There have been the customary limitations on media and journalists and also extra restrictions by means of radio and television law.

Recently, people were shocked receiving a bad news about Burma army's brutality against a freelancer. Soldiers from Burma Army shot dead freelance reporter Aung Kyaw Naing alias Par Gyi while the journalist was in military custody, according to a Burma Army's statement sent to the local Interim Press Council.

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The journalist had been killed by soldiers from No. 208 Light Infantry Battalion on the outskirts of Kyaikmayaw Township in southeastern Mon State, according to news reports. The statement said Par Gyi was first detained on September 30. He was killed on October 4 and his body was buried at Shwe War Chong, a village some 20 km from Kyaikmayaw, without releasing any information publicly.

The question is that why the information was released belatedly. Why did the military itself take responsibility of releasing the statement? Instead, the interim press council relayed the death message of Par Gyi for the military's information last week.

Kyaw Min Swe, editor-in-chief of local newspaper The Voice and the Press Council's general secretary, told The Irrawaddy on Friday morning that the council had received a statement from the Burma Army on Thursday, informing them of the death of Aung Kyaw Naing, also known as Par Gyi.

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"Whether he was a journalist or an officer from an armed group, this is a human rights violation," Zaw Thet Htway, a member of press council, said Friday to Yangon AP News. "We need to find out the truth about what happened," he said.

Some regional reporters from Kayin State said Aung Kyaw Naing was stranded for three days while covering clashes that broke out between the government army and DKBA in Mon State's Kyaikmaraw Township in late last month. He was arrested by the authorities as he was returning to the town centre from the battle-hit Shwe-wah-chaung Village, Eleven Media news said on 25 October.

"The killing of Aung Kyaw Naing by Burma's military is reprehensible," said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's Southeast Asia representative. "Civilian authorities must investigate the military's accounting of his death, which has the initial hallmarks of a cover-up. Any soldier found responsible for his extrajudicial killing or mistreatment before his death must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

According to the The Irrawaddy News, Aung Kyaw Naing's wife, Than Dar wants her husband's body back. The authorities had not informed her of her husband's death officially as yet, Than Dar said.

"I don't want any wives or daughters to suffer like we suffer. I will proceed with the charges (against the army) for torture and death," said Than Dar, who is a political activist. The Irrawaddy had previously quoted her saying that she had filed a missing persons report and a complaint of possible kidnapping with police in the area where he disappeared.

Aung Kyaw Naing's wife and several of his colleagues may demand to establish an independent civilian investigation in order to find out the facts of the murder for an open trial.

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In January 2014, the Government of Myanmar stated their intention to sign the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT). Their stated timeframe was to sign this in September 2014, but remains unsigned, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), known as AAPP, a human rights organization based in Mae Sot, Thailand.

Despite the promise to sign the UNCAT, accounts of torture by various authorities continue to come from all parts of the country, Political Prisoners have been subjected to this treatment for years, in detention centers, interrogation centers, prisons and police stations.

The brutal physical and psychological oppression of those who have the courage to campaign for basic civil liberties in Burma/Myanmar has not stopped, nor have any significant actions been taken to prevent it. There were cases of torture that have happened throughout 2014, and reveal the pretexts and prejudices under which many people are detained and abused, AAPP said.

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Zin Linn was born on February 9, 1946 in a small town in Mandalay Division. He began writing poems in 1960 and received a B.A (Philosophy) in 1976. He became an activist in the High School Union after the students' massacre on 7th July 1962. (more...)

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