DVB Multimedia Group

Police detain suspected mastermind of Ko Ni assassination

Lawyer Ko Ni, seen here on a DVB Debate panel in September 2016, played a prominent role in drafting legislation to address religious discrimination and hate speech in Burma. (Photo: DVB)

Police in the eastern Burmese border town of Myawaddy have said that a man named Myint Swe is in custody, believed to be the mastermind or the paymaster behind Sunday’s assassination of prominent lawyer Ko Ni.

A police officer in Myawaddy confirmed to DVB that a man had been detained on Tuesday evening and was currently being questioned.

“We detained someone by the name Myint Swe, and he is currently being questioned by the Criminal Investigation Department,” said the police officer, on condition of anonymity.

Karen State police in the regional capital Hpa-an were unavailable for comment.

Ko Ni, a legal advisor to the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD), was shot dead at point-blank range in the back of the head as he stood at a taxi rank outside Yangon International Airport. He had just returned from a state-sponsored visit to Indonesia, and was holding his grandchild in his arms when the gunman killed him. A taxi driver named Nay Win also died from a gunshot wound when he attempted to chase down the killer.

Rangoon police named the gunman as Kyi Linn, a 53-year-old with a minor prison record. It is as yet unknown whether he had any political or religious affiliations. Police have refused to disclose where they are holding Kyi Linn for security reasons.

Documents, allegedly leaked from Special Branch police, have this week surfaced on social media in Burma, purportedly saying that Kyi Linn had confessed to police that he was either directed or contracted to murder Ko Ni by a man named Myint Swe, whom he met in Mae Sot, a town in Thailand which sits across the border from Myawaddy.

No motives for the lawyer’s murder have yet been disclosed, though speculation around Burma is rife. Ko Ni was a highly respected legal adviser, known to be close to NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi. He was one of the main architects behind the new ruling party’s moves to reform the 2008 Constitution. Ko Ni was also a Muslim and had been working on a new Interfaith Harmony Bill, aimed at criminalising hate speech and discrimination.