Ko Ni gunned down: a rare Muslim voice silenced as he returns from Jakarta trip

January 29, 2017

A legal adviser for the ruling NLD who worked for human rights cases related to the Muslim community was gunned down outside the Yangon airport on Sunday.

U Ko Ni had just stepped out of the airport and cuddled his baby grandson when he was shot by a lone gunman at around 5pm. The assassin also killed a taxi driver who tried to intercept him. He was however captured on the spot. Police describe him as a 53 year man from Mandalay.

Ko Ni was returning from a week long Jakarta trip, billed as an important initiative to explore if the Indonesian experience of national reconciliation could be applied to the restive Arakan state. Alongside Ko Ni, himself a Muslim, there were other Burmese Muslim leaders, some of them belonging to the Rohingya community, according to Reuters. The travel group also included Information Minister U Pe Myint, the Deputy Minister for Home Affairs, and the Home Affairs Minister for Arakan State.

International media describes Ko Ni as ‘a rare public voice in favour of the country’s Muslim population’.

Police have not yet diverged reasons for the assassination of Ko Ni. His daughter Yin Nwe Khine has however voiced concerns his death might be related to ongoing religious tensions in the country. “A lot of people hate us because we have different religious beliefs, so I think that might be why it happened to him, but I don’t know the reason,” she said.

She also said, “my father was often threatened and we were warned to be careful, but my father didn’t accept that easily. He always did what he thought was right.”

Ko Ni was also one of the rare voices who described the Tatmadaw’s powerful influence in the country headed nominally by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

Many had expected Ko Ni to be Attorney Genenral but he was reportedly sidelined by Suu Kyi because of his Muslim faith.

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