Lawyer for Suu Kyi's party shot dead

YANGON • A legal adviser to Myanmar's ruling National League for Democracy was shot dead outside the country's busiest airport yesterday after returning from a government-led trip to Indonesia.

An unidentified lone gunman killed Mr Ko Ni and injured two others in front of the main terminal of Yangon International Airport, according to the veteran lawyer's assistant San Naing.

"They shot my boss. He is dead. I am beside his body and there's blood on the floor," the assistant told Reuters by phone.

Images posted on social media appear to show a pool of blood around the slain lawyer's head.

Mr Zaw Htay, a spokesman for the president's office, said Mr Ko Ni had just returned from a government delegation trip to Indonesia.

"He (Ko Ni) was shot while he was waiting for a car outside the airport. Ko Ni died on the spot," he told AFP.

WITNESS' ACCOUNT

They shot my boss. He is dead. I am beside his body and there's blood on the floor.

MR SAN NAING, Mr Ko Ni's assistant, on the veteran lawyer's killing.

Police have detained a suspect, but the motive is unknown so far.

A police official, who declined to be named, did not give additional details about the suspect.

Mr Ko Ni was a prominent member of Myanmar's Muslim minority.

The shooting comes amid heightened communal tensions in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where leader Aung San Suu Kyi is under pressure over a security operation in an area of the country's north-west that is populated mostly by Muslims.

Mr Ko Ni, an expert in constitutional law who advised the party led by Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi, had joined a delegation to Indonesia led by Information Minister Pe Myint, the assistant said.

Members of the delegation to Muslim-majority Indonesia - billed as an opportunity to share experiences of national reconciliation - included several Myanmar Muslim leaders, some belonging to the mostly stateless Rohingya minority.

Myanmar's border regions have simmered for decades with ethnic minority insurgencies. Yet it is rare for prominent political figures to be murdered in Yangon, the country's booming and largely safe commercial hub.

In recent years, however, Myanmar has witnessed a surge of anti-Muslim sentiment, fanned by hardline Buddhist nationalists.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2017, with the headline 'Lawyer for Suu Kyi's party shot dead'. Print Edition | Subscribe