Burma Loses a Key Voice for Tolerance

ASIA--PACIFIC, 6 Feb 2017

Linda Lakhdhir | Human Rights Watch – TRANSCEND Media Service

Murder of U Ko Ni Undermines Fight for an Inclusive Country

30 Jan 2017 – The murder of U Ko Ni, a longtime rights and democracy activist, respected constitutional lawyer, and legal advisor for the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party, is a grave loss for Burma and for all those who seek to promote tolerance and respect for human rights in the country. As one of the few remaining Muslims with the stature to influence the NLD’s policies, he was a voice of reason amid a rising tide of intolerance.

Supporters carry the coffin of U Ko Ni in Rangoon, Burma, on January 30, 2017.
© 2017 Reuters

On Sunday [29 Jan] afternoon, U Ko Ni was shot dead outside Rangoon airport while holding his grandson in his arms. He had just returned from accompanying a government minister on an official trip to Indonesia to discuss ways to overcome inter-religious differences. The alleged gunman was arrested while attempting to flee the scene.

I first met U Ko Ni in Rangoon last June, at a Human Rights Watch news conference for the launch of a report I wrote calling on the newly elected NLD government to amend or repeal laws criminalizing peaceful speech and assembly. While he supported our call to reform Burma’s outdated and repressive laws, he stressed that changing a system developed over the course of 50 years of military rule could not all happen at once.

After the news conference, we met in the hotel coffee shop. U Ko Ni, fasting for Ramadan, spoke quietly but intensely about the many ways in which Muslims are marginalized in Burma and his desire to make a difference. He raised concerns about the prevalence of anti-Muslim hate speech on social media and the need to find ways to counter it. He was thoughtful, creative, principled, and determined to fight for justice – all qualities that are much needed in Burma today.

While the motive for his murder is still unknown, what is clear is that the country has lost a strong voice for tolerance and inclusion at a time when it needs it most. The many people whose lives were touched by his activism, his legal work, and his principled compassion will mourn his tragic death. But the greatest challenge falls now to the NLD, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, who should honor his legacy by forcefully and consistently acting to protect the rights of the country’s increasingly persecuted Muslim population – whether ethnic Rohingya in Rakhine State or the minority communities in Burma’s urban areas.


Linda Lakhdhir Legal Advisor, Asia Division.

Go to Original – hrw.org


Share this article:

DISCLAIMER: The statements, views and opinions expressed in pieces republished here are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of TMS. In accordance with title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. TMS has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is TMS endorsed or sponsored by the originator. “GO TO ORIGINAL” links are provided as a convenience to our readers and allow for verification of authenticity. However, as originating pages are often updated by their originating host sites, the versions posted may not match the versions our readers view when clicking the “GO TO ORIGINAL” links. This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Comments are closed.