Journalist killed in military custody in Burma

Bangkok, October 24, 2014–Burma’s army shot dead freelance reporter Aung Kyaw Naing while the journalist was in military custody, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the journalist’s killing, the first in Burma since 2007.

On Thursday, Burma’s army sent a statement to the local Interim Press Council, a quasi-independent media group, that said Naing had been killed on the outskirts of Kyaikmayaw township in southeastern Mon State, according to news reports. The statement said Naing was first apprehended on September 30 and was killed on October 4 and that he had been buried at Shwe War Chong, a village outside Kyaikmayaw.

Naing had been reporting from an area held by the rebel Democratic Karen Benevolent Army before he was arrested. Naing, also known as Par Gyi, contributed news and photos to local Burmese publications Eleven Media, Yangon Times, and The Voice, according to local journalists and news reports.

The army statement to the Press Council said Naing was shot when he attempted to seize a soldier’s gun and escape detention, news reports said. The statement also said Naing served as the communications officer for the Klohtoobaw Karen Organization, the political wing of the DKBA, according to news reports. The organization denied that Naing was affiliated with them, The Irrawaddy, an exile-run media outlet, reported.

It was not immediately clear why the military waited three weeks to release a statement about his death and burial. Naing’s wife, Than Dar, filed a missing persons report and a complaint of possible kidnapping with Kyaikmayaw police on Sunday, according to news reports.

“The killing of Aung Kyaw Naing by Burma’s military is reprehensible,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s Southeast Asia representative. “Civilian authorities must investigate the military’s accounting of his death, which has the initial hallmarks of a cover-up. Any soldier found responsible for his extrajudicial killing or mistreatment before his death must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Earlier news reports citing Than Dar said the journalist had been held at the Light Infantry Division 208’s base in Kyaikmayaw. She said in a press conference on Tuesday that police told her Naing had been beaten while held at the base, according to reports.

Than Dar told The Irrawaddy today that she had not been officially notified of his death and only learned about it from today’s press reports. Than Dar said she intended to file charges against the military for the torture and death of her husband, The Irrawaddy report said.

At least three other journalists have been killed in Burma, according to CPJ research. Kenji Nagai, who worked for the Japanese media agency APF News, was killed by Burmese troops while covering a protest in 2007. In 1999, U Hla Han and U Tha Win, both employees of the Burmese paper Kyemon, were allegedly tortured to death by military agents, according to reports.