Leaked Myanmar police documents published on social media on Tuesday about the investigation of the gunman who killed prominent Muslim lawyer and government advisor Ko Ni named a man who is said to be the mastermind of the brutal murder.
Arrested gunman Kyi Lin, 54, who shot Ko Ni at point blank range on Sunday outside Yangon airport as he held his grandson and then killed a taxi driver who chased him, told police in his five-page statement that a man named Myint Swe hired him to murder the lawyer.
Ko Ni had just returned from Indonesia where he had been part of a Myanmar government delegation to discuss interfaith tolerance and reconciliation.
Kyi Lin said he met Myint Swe—who is not connected to the vice president of Myanmar who has the same name—in the town of Mae Sot on the border with Thailand in late 2014.
Myint Swe promised him a car as a reward for killing Ko Ni, he said, according to the documents.
Kyi Lin also said Myint Swe was “somewhere around”—meaning presumably in Yangon—when the killings took place, the social media reports said.
Kyi Lin, who hails from Yinmabin township in northwest Myanmar’s Sagaing region, served two years and seven months in prison for stealing Buddhist statues in Mandalay in 1985.
He went to jail again in 2003 for smuggling Buddhist statues to the border. Sentenced to 20 years, he was later freed under a presidential amnesty in 2014.
He is now being held at Mingaladon police station, about 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) north of downtown Yangon.
Social media posts Facebook said his statements were leaked as they changed hands in the police department.
RFA could not independently confirm the Facebook reports.
The motive of the killing remains unknown.
Two burials in Yangon
Ko Ni was buried Monday in a Muslim cemetery on the outskirts of Yangon in a funeral attended by tens of thousands of people.
The funeral for slain taxi driver Ne Win was held on Tuesday in Yangon, where he was praised as a national hero and his coffin was draped in the NLD’s fighting peacock flag.
“If he hadn’t given up his life to capture the killer, things might be different today,” said Min Ko Naing, a student leader from the 1988 uprising against the military junta that then ruled the country.
“[But] there would have been lots of accusations and suspicions between communities and among individuals, and we might have a dangerous situation,” he said at the funeral.
The ultranationalist Buddhist monk group Ma Ba Tha issued a statement on Tuesday expressing its condolences for the slain lawyer and taxi driver.
“Every life is precious and has to be appreciated,” said Ma Ba Tha member Ven Tezaniya. “Torture, killings and all acts of violence should be stopped at all costs. We condemn all these acts which are against the principles of Buddhism. We are sorry for the families of the victims too.”
The statement also cited the recent killings of a schoolteacher in northern Myanmar’s Kachin state, five Myanmar workers in Malaysia, nine border policemen in Maungdaw township in Rakhine state, and a family of four in Mingaladon, calling them “senseless.”
U.N. envoy speaks out
On Monday, the United Nations human rights envoy for Myanmar issued a statement on Monday strongly condemning Ko Ni’s brutal murder, calling it an “act of reprisal.”
“I am shocked to the core by the senseless killing of a highly respected and knowledgeable individual, whom I have met during all of my visits to the country, including most recently just over a week ago,” said Yanghee Lee, who ended a 12-day trip to Myanmar earlier this month.
She said the act was also “an act of violence against children” because Ko Ni was holding his grandchild when he was shot in the back of the head, “exposing the child to witness one of the most horrific acts of violence.”
“This appears to be another shocking example of a reprisal against those speaking out on behalf of the rights of others,” said Lee who had expressed concern about the growing risks faced by human rights defenders and lawyers in a statement she issued at the end of her visit.
Lee also called on the National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government to conduct an impartial investigation into the murder.
“U Ko Ni’s passing is a tremendous loss to human rights defenders and for Myanmar, Lee said. “The state counselor and the NLD-led government must get to the bottom of this senseless act, and give answers to his family and to us all.”
The NLD has called the murder a political assassination and “terrorist attack.”
Reported by Zarni Htun, Kyaw Thu, and Wai Mar Tun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.