Suspect’s silence obstructs Par Gyi case

Suspect’s silence obstructs Par Gyi case

A legal inquiry into the death of freelance journalist Par Gyi, who died in Burmese army custody in September, is still facing delays.

Police investigators have said that they have been prevented from taking a statement from an army serviceman who is a key person of interest in the case.

Freelance reporter and activist Par Gyi was detained by the army and accused of having rebel connections while he was covering fighting between the Burmese army and the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army in Mon State’s Kyeikmayaw.

A month later, the military announced that he had been shot and killed as he tried to wrestle a gun from a soldier in an attempted escape.

Following a protracted fight for information by Par Gyi’s widow Ma Thandar amidst apparent military obfuscation, the exhumation of Par Gyi’s body showed gunshot wounds, a broken jaw, broken ribs, and a smashed skull.

Kyeikmayaw police recently told Ma Thandar that the legal inquiry into her husband’s death can not officially commence because the army has refused to allow them to question a soldier – the alleged shooter of Par Gyi.

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“The police said they still don’t have all the statements and evidence required to commence the trial. The police have received statements from all civilians in the case – more than 20 of them – but they haven’t had permission from the army to question the soldier who is the key suspect,” said Ma Thandar.

“The police said that the army denied them access to meet the serviceman. The army promised to send over his affidavit, but the police still have not received it. The army also refused to return Ko Par Gyi’s belongings which were seized from him.”

Ma Thandar told DVB that she intends to write a letter to Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing to help kick-start the trial as soon as possible. If no response is received within 60 days, she said, she will file a motion at the Naypyidaw Supreme Court.

An investigation into the death of Par Gyi by the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission that took place at the end of 2014 suggested that a trial in a civil court was needed for transparency.

Ma Thandar blasted this report, however, as neither comprehensive nor impartial. She called for a new and independent investigation into her husband’s death.

She highlighted the shortcomings in the MNHRC report, such as a failure to mention the Kyeikmayaw police handing him over to the Burmese army without court procedures, and what she maintains are the inaccurate details of injuries Par Gyi sustained.

The case has garnered much international attention, and was referenced in the Human Rights Watch 2015 report, and the Freedom House report on press freedom.

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