Slain Myanmar reporter Aung Naing's body exhumed: witness

Thandar (centre) arrives at 88 Generation students office prior to a press conference about her late husband Aung Naing, in Yangon on Oct 29, 2014. The body of Aung Naing, a journalist shot dead while in the Myanmar army's custody, has been exhu
Thandar (centre) arrives at 88 Generation students office prior to a press conference about her late husband Aung Naing, in Yangon on Oct 29, 2014. The body of Aung Naing, a journalist shot dead while in the Myanmar army's custody, has been exhumed and sent for an autopsy, a witness said on Wednesday, Nov 5, after his death sparked international concern. -- PHOTO: AFP

YANGON (AFP) - The body of a journalist shot dead while in the Myanmar army's custody has been exhumed and sent for an autopsy, a witness said Wednesday, after his death sparked international concern.

The powerful army issued a rare statement last month saying soldiers had shot Aung Naing in an insurgency-prone eastern border region, claiming he was a member of a rebel group who had tried to escape.

His wife Thandar, who has vehemently denied the military version of events, travelled to Mon state where the body was buried to be present at the exhumation along with activists, local security forces and members of Myanmar's Human Rights Commission.

"The body was exhumed this afternoon and taken to Mawlamyein hospital," said Nay Myo Zin, of the Myanmar Social Development Network who was present at the site.

"It has not been destroyed but decomposed," he told AFP, adding that initial appearances suggested Aung Naing had been beaten.

The United States has urged a "transparent" investigation into the death, which comes as Myanmar is facing heat over a string of high-profile prosecutions of journalists.

The country's reform record is under increased scrutiny before a visit by US President Barack Obama and other world leaders for the Asean summit next week.

President Thein Sein has announced that the Human Rights Commission would investigate the shooting, although there were few details about the scope of the probe in a country where the military was long accustomed to impunity.

Aung Naing was a former member of the democracy movement and acted as a security guard for opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during mass protests in 1988.

His wife said she had received a message of support from Suu Kyi, who is now an MP, expressing hope that the "truth be revealed".

Myanmar's former junta handed out long jail sentences to journalists while choking off information with some of the world's most draconian censorship rules.

But reforms under a quasi-civilian government have been hailed as the country opens up to the world after decades of isolation.