Politicians mourn murdered adviser of Burmese leader at funeral ceremony

Burmese politicians and activists shocked by the assassination of an adviser to leader Aung San Suu Kyi gathered on Monday at a cemetery for an emotional funeral ceremony.

Politicians mourn murdered adviser of Burmese leader at funeral ceremony

Burmese politicians and activists shocked by the assassination of an adviser to leader Aung San Suu Kyi gathered on Monday at a cemetery for an emotional funeral ceremony.

Ko Ni, a prominent lawyer and member of Burma's Muslim minority, was shot in the head at close range as he walked out of Rangoon airport on Sunday.

"This is a great loss not only for our community but also for the country," Win Myint, a Muslim religious leader, said at the funeral. "He was necessary to our country's democratic system."

The killing shocked many in Rangoon because attacks on prominent people are rare, although security forces are notorious for brutal behaviour in remote rural areas, especially when dealing with ethnic minorities.

Ko Ni "is irreplaceable for both Aung San Suu Kyi and the party", Ms Suu Kyi's ruling National League for Democracy party said in a statement.

Members of Parliament, political activists and NLD party members gathered for the funeral at a Muslim cemetery, said Tun Kyi, a prominent Muslim activist and a friend of Ko Ni.

Many of the thousands of people who streamed to the cemetery wept openly. Security was tight, with police even using bomb detectors on the baskets of flowers sent by mourners.

Those attending included US ambassador Scot Marciel, who called Ko Ni's death "a terrible loss".

"All I want to say is, of course, we are all shocked and really sad," he said. "I knew Ko Ni and his commitment to his country and democracy."

Ko Ni was especially valued as an expert in constitutional law, looking for ways to sidestep provisions placed in the charter by an earlier military junta to retain power at the expense of elected governments.

He was seen as a familiar and helpful figure by journalists and human rights workers who have found Ms Suu Kyi's government almost as difficult to deal with as the military-backed regime it replaced.

At the same time, Ko Ni was active in defending the rights of Muslims, who often face discrimination in Buddhist-majority Burma.

Anti-Muslim sentiments have increased in the country in recent years following deadly intercommunal violence in the western state of Rakhine, home to many Muslims belonging to the Rohingya minority.

The suspect was arrested after he also shot a taxi driver who tried to stop him from fleeing the airport, the Information Ministry said in a video posted on state-run MRTV. The driver died on the way to hospital.

Police seized two guns from the man, whom they identified as Kyi Linn of Mandalay. Authorities were searching for any possible accomplices.

Speculation about the motive included political intimidation, anti-Muslim prejudice and a possible business dispute involving the victim's private law practice.

AP

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