Ma Thandar rejects military court acquittal

Ma Thandar rejects military court acquittal

A civilian court hearing in the case of the death of Burmese reporter Par Gyi continued in Mon State’s Kyeikmayaw Township on Monday, the fourth such hearing as the court investigates the death of the journalist while in army custody last September.

Par Gyi’s widow Ma Thandar, a witness at the trial who worked tirelessly to locate her husband’s body amid obstructions from the military, gave her testimony at the court.

She told DVB that she included in her account the details she learned about her husband’s death following his disappearance.

The government-backed Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) on 8 May announced that a military court, in a parallel investigation of the case, had acquitted Lance-Cpl Kyaw Kyaw Aung and Pvt. Naing Linn Tun who were facing charges relating to his death. MNHRC said that the Ministry of Defence had decided the ruling was in accordance with the country’s 2008 Constitution.

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Ma Thandar and her lawyer Robert San Aung have objected to the military court’s ruling.

“They said the soldiers were acquitted in accordance with the 2008 Constitution, but I must point out that my husband’s constitutional rights were disregarded when he was detained and interrogated.

“There was no martial law issued under Article 144 in the area he was detained,” she said. “My husband was slain in a lawless manner while the culprits who shot him were released ‘in accordance with the constitution’. This is an exploitation of the constitution.”

The MNHRC, in a report in December last year, recommended the case should be heard in a civilian court.

Sitt Myaing, deputy-chairman of the MNHRC, said, “We recommended hearing the case at a civilian court for freedom and fairness, and to ensure the rights of the victim as a citizen under the Constitution’s Article 374.

“The Constitution also allows the Tatmadaw [Burmese army] to initiate a court martial under military laws, and states that the commander-in-chief’s decision should be final. We would like to say we have done what we should on the grounds of human rights, and the rest is on a legal basis.”

Par Gyi, also known as Aung Kyaw Naing, was killed in military custody in September after being arrested while embedded with the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army. The army said he was shot while trying to escape, but the injuries discovered when his body was finally exhumed after a long campaign by his widow Ma Thandar were not concurrent with that version of events.

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