International rights groups have joined domestic voices in condemning the killing of journalist Par Gyi by the Burmese army, while the US embassy in Rangoon has called on Naypyidaw to conduct a transparent investigation into his death.
Freelance journalist Par Gyi was taken into custody by Burmese government forces while reporting in Mon State last month. The military has since issued a statement saying he was shot dead while trying to escape.
According to an official statement by the US Embassy on Wednesday: “We are deeply concerned and saddened by reports that freelance journalist Ko Par Gyi, also known as Aung Kyaw Naing, was killed in Mon State while detained by military forces. Full details surrounding his detention and death remain unknown at this time. We have raised serious concern with the government on the matter. We call on the government to conduct a credible and transparent investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death, and to hold the perpetrators accountable. Respect for press freedoms is a cornerstone for every flourishing democracy. We urge the Government of Burma to release journalists still in captivity who have been detained for exercising these freedoms. Our thoughts are with Ko Par Gyi’s family and friends.”
International rights groups, including the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Human Rights Watch (HRW), and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have thrown their weight behind calls for justice.
Min Lwin Oo, a lawyer for the Hong-Kong based AHRC, said, “The AHRC is going to release an emergency letter of appeal to the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva and relevant human rights bodies … calling for their assistance with regard to the death of Ko Par Gyi, also known as Ko Aung Kyaw Naing.”
According to David Mathieson, senior researcher on Burma for Human Rights Watch: “The killing of Ko Par Gyi demonstrates the ruthless impunity of the military, and their resistance to pursue a full accounting of his death renders clear their disdain for the rule of law. This killing is sending shock waves through Burma’s already embattled press corps, facing several months of government intimidation [and a] reversal of press freedoms. The army has sent a chilling warning to all journalists that they will deal harshly with anyone who looks into their extensive dirty practices.”
In an email to DVB, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Southeast Asian representative Shawn Crispin said, “We are gravely concerned by reports that journalist Aung Kyaw Naing has been killed while being held in military custody in Burma. Government authorities must investigate these reports, reveal publicly the circumstances behind his death, and prosecute the perpetrators under the fullest extent of the law.”
Three hundred people gathered in central Rangoon on Sunday to denounce the extrajudicial killing of Par Gyi. Other rallies and vigils for the journalist were this week in Prome [Pyay].
DVB reported earlier that Aung Naing’s wife, Ma Thandar held a press conference on 21 October calling on President Thein Sein, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission to help in the search for her husband.
The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission Chairman Win Mya said the commission is still trying to verify news of Par Gyi’s death.
“As of now, we have not yet received all information about the case – we are still trying to verify the reports [of Par Gyi’s death],” he said. “But this is not the only job we are dealing with. We have other issues to see to.”
Par Gyi was once a bodyguard for Suu Kyi, and the NLD leader this week sent a private message of condolence to Ma Thandar.
The unwanted attention comes at a time when Burma is gearing up to host both an ASEAN summit and the 2014 East Asian summit in Naypyidaw next month.
Speaking in New York in September, Burma’s Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin called for the UN to drop its focus on human rights when dealing with his government.