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The Burmese government issued a press release on Thursday stating that President Thein Sein’s office has ordered the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission to conduct an investigation into the death of Par Gyi, a journalist killed last month while covering armed conflict in Mon State.
Par Gyi is the pseudonym used by Aung Naing, who went into exile in Thailand shortly after his involvement in Burma’s 1988 uprising. The press release indicated that the decision to order an investigation was based on reports in state-owned newspapers which quoted the Ministry of Defence on 25 October, describing the journalist as “Captain Aung Naing, communication in-charge of the Klohtoobaw Karen Organization (KKO).”
However, Par Gyi’s family and friends dispute the Burmese army’s claim that he was ever a member of the KKO, the political wing of the Democratic Karen Benevolent Association (DKBA). They are demanding justice and want to know why he was detained and murdered by the Burmese army while working as a journalist.
Condemnation of the killing has also come from the international community, including the United States, which has called on Naypyidaw to conduct a transparent investigation into the journalist’s death.
Burmese civic group 88 Generation Peace and Open Society (88GPOS) released a statement on 24 October strongly condemning the army for summarily executing a civilian, labelling it as a lawless act.
The 88GPOS’s leader, Mya Aye, said the army is responsible for the murder of Aung Naing and the group will demand justice against the perpetrator.
“As soon as we heard news that Ko Par Gyi was missing, we reached out to government officials and stressed that he is entitled to legal rights, and that they can’t just arbitrarily detain him and take him away to unknown places,” said Mya Aye.
The 88GPOS leader then added, “We learned from Aung Naing’s family that when they first went to look for him [in Kyeikmayaw], the army told them they would be allowed to see him and that he could be released if his family bails him out. But later they backtracked on their promise and began avoiding the family.
“According to the statement released [on 24 October], the army conjured up a far-fetched story about him, claiming that he was shot dead for trying to rob a gun while escaping from detention. But we do not accept that. From a legal point of view, the army has committed a crime and we demand to see effective legal action against the perpetrator(s). We will stage public protests if necessary,” said Mya Aye.
Before he began working as a freelance journalist, Par Gyi was a political activist and a member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s personal security team during the 1988 uprising. He was also one of the first National League for Democracy Youth members and acted as the group’s Karen State coordinator.
Eventually, Par Gyi was forced into exile in Thailand, where he started working as a freelance reporter based in Mae Sot. Prior to his death, Par Gyi was working for at least three different publications, according to his wife Ma Thandar.