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Myanmar's democratic transition

‘A great loss’: Aung San Suu Kyi breaks her silence over assassination of top lawyer who criticised military’s influence

At memorial, Suu Kyi stayed clear of politics but she did appeal for patience, arguing her government has only been in power for 10 months after ­decades of junta rule.

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 February, 2017, 9:16pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 February, 2017, 10:08pm

Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has broken a month-long silence on the assassination of her adviser, calling his killing a “great loss” for the country.

Ko Ni, a prominent Muslim lawyer and critic of Myanmar’s powerful military, was shot dead on January 29 outside Yangon ­airport in a murder that shocked the country. A taxi driver, Ne Win, was also killed trying to stop the gunman, who authorities said was hired by a former military officer who is now on the run.

Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party branded the killing a pol­itical assassination and “terrorist act” against their policies. Suu Kyi, a close friend of Ko Ni, remained silent in the wake of the incident. But she made a rare public appearance at a memorial service organised by her party for the two victims.

“Losing U Ko Ni is a great loss for our NLD. He worked together with us for many years through his beliefs,” she told a packed hall in Yangon, describing both he and the taxi driver as “martyrs”.

A constitutional expert, Ko Ni was a prominent critic of the ­military’s continued political ­influence, including their control of key security ministries and guaranteed seats in parliament, something the NLD hopes to one day overturn.

However, he criticised the NLD for not fielding any Muslim candidates in elections and condemned the increasing Islamophobia that has swept through the nation in recent years, stirred up by Buddhist nationalists – some connected to Suu Kyi’s party.

That Suu Kyi has said so little about the killing surprised observers, but since her government took power last May, she has been tight-lipped on major issues. She rarely gives policy speeches or holds press conferences.

At the memorial, Suu Kyi stayed clear of politics but she did appeal for patience, arguing her government has only been in power for 10 months after ­decades of junta rule.