Myanmar’s probe of lawyer’s killing beset by leaks, confusion

Ko Ni, Myanmar's assassinated legal adviser for the ruling National League for Democracy, is seen during an interview in Yangon on January 13, 2016. (Reuters file photo)
Updated 04 February 2017
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Myanmar’s probe of lawyer’s killing beset by leaks, confusion

YANGON: Myanmar’s national police chief has taken personal charge of an investigation into the killing of a prominent lawyer and adviser to Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling party, police sources said, after leaks and conflicting comments by officers about its progress.
The killing of Muslim advocate Ko Ni, 63 — shot in the head on Sunday in front of onlookers while he held his grandson outside Yangon’s international airport — has rocked the commercial capital, where acts of political violence are rare.
It comes amid heightened religious and communal tensions in the Buddhist-majority country, with a report from the United Nations human rights office on Friday saying a military crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in the northwest in recent months “very likely” amounted to crimes against humanity.
Tens of thousands turned out for Ko Ni’s funeral, and the public is closely watching how authorities investigate a killing the civilian president’s office has called an attempt to destabilize the state.
Colleagues have told Reuters Ko Ni was working on amendments to Myanmar’s military drafted constitution to help the National League for Democracy-led government rule effectively in a system that keeps soldiers in control of key ministries.
Major General Zaw Win, chief of the Myanmar Police Force, arrived in Yangon from the capital, Naypyidaw, on Thursday to oversee the probe, which is being led by the police’s criminal investigation department, two police officials told Reuters.
The official, who like other police spoke about the investigation on condition of anonymity, said the military’s domestic intelligence agency was also involved in the probe.
A military intelligence agent told Reuters he was instructed to monitor Ko Ni in the months before the lawyer’s death.
The intelligence agency was primarily concerned with finding out how the suspect obtained a firearm, ownership of which is tightly controlled in Myanmar, the official said.

Citizen investigators
The suspected shooter — named by police as Kyi Linn, 53 — was arrested after a group of taxi drivers chased the him down. One of the drivers was himself shot and killed.
Despite a ban on police talking publicly about the case, photographs showing parts of a report on Kyi Linn’s interrogation have spread widely online. Officials believe the images were leaked after police used the messaging app Viber to share them with colleagues.
The leak sparked a race on social media — use of which has rocketed in Myanmar since recent telecommunications reforms — to identify a man who, according to the document, Kyi Linn said enticed him to shoot Ko Ni.
Facebook users posted photos of purported suspects, and analyzed CCTV footage from the airport to devise often far-fetched conspiracy theories. Many in Myanmar distrust the police, who are under the remit of the military.
Police themselves have made contradictory statements on whether suspects are under arrest or not.
The office of President Htin Kyaw said late on Friday that a 46-year-old named Aung Win Zaw had been detained in the early hours of Monday, just hours after Ko Ni’s shooting, in the eastern state of Kayin, which borders Thailand.
Aung Win Zaw is accused of conspiring with Kyi Linn to kill Ko Ni, the office said in a statement, adding that police were searching for more suspects.
Police said Kyi Linn — who is charged with murder — has been jailed twice in the past for trafficking Buddhist artefacts, but was released in a 2014 amnesty granted by then-President Thein Sein.
Another former cell mate told Reuters he thought Kyi Linn would do anything “for his business and money,” adding: “I don’t think he is related to any political and religious issues.”
In his home village of Sai Lyar, members of Kyi Linn’s family were shocked by the news, carried by police and reporters who have visited their farming community in rural Sagaing Division since Sunday.
“I am sure my brother would not kill someone on his own,” Kyi Linn’s younger sister, Win Kyi, told Reuters. “There must be someone behind him.”
(Additional reporting by Saw Nang in Sai Lyar village)


British cabinet backs PM Theresa May’s Brexit plan

Updated 14 November 2018
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British cabinet backs PM Theresa May’s Brexit plan

  • Theresa May: The collective decision of cabinet was that the government should agree the draft withdrawal agreement and the outline political declaration
  • At the heart of May’s difficulties has been the so-called Northern Irish backstop, an insurance policy to avoid a return to controls between the British province and EU-member Ireland

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday that cabinet had backed her Brexit plan, adding it was in the national interest but that there would be difficult days ahead.
“The collective decision of cabinet was that the government should agree the draft withdrawal agreement and the outline political declaration,” May said outside her Downing Street residence after a five-hour cabinet meeting.
“I firmly believe with my head and my heart that this is a decision in the best interests of the entire United Kingdom.” 

Her minority government means May is the weakest British leader in a generation, yet she must try to get her Brexit deal, struck after more than a year of talks with the EU, approved by parliament before leaving the bloc on March 29, 2019.
“I’m confident that this takes us significantly closer to delivering on what the British people voted for in the referendum,” May told parliament. Britons voted 52-48 percent in favor of leaving the EU in 2016.
May’s plan is an attempt to forge a balance between those who want Britain to maintain close links to the world’s biggest trading bloc while having full control over issues such as immigration and judicial oversight.
“We will take back control of our borders, our laws and our money, leave the Common Fisheries Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy, while protecting jobs, security and the integrity of the United Kingdom,” May said of the deal.
But Brexit campaigners in May’s Conservative Party, which for three decades has been divided over Europe, said it was a surrender to the EU and they would vote it down.
The Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) which props up May’s government, said May had repeatedly pledged to ensure Northern Ireland was treated in the same way as the rest of the United Kingdom.
“If she decides to go against all of that, then there will be consequences,” DUP leader Arlene Foster said.
Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn called it a “botched deal.”
At the heart of May’s difficulties has been the so-called Northern Irish backstop, an insurance policy to avoid a return to controls between the British province and EU-member Ireland which could threaten the 1998 peace accord which ended 30 years of violence.
EU sources said if the bloc and Britain failed to agree a new trade deal by July 2020, they would have to take a decision on how to prevent border checks returning.
Either Britain would have to extend the transition period, possibly until the end of 2021, or enter a UK-wide customs arrangement but with Northern Ireland more closely aligned with the EU’s rules.
Treating Northern Ireland differently risks alienating the DUP who warn it could risk the integrity of the United Kingdom, while Brexit-supporting members of parliament argue it could leave Britain subject to EU rules indefinitely.
“If the media reports about the EU agreement are in any way accurate, you are not delivering the Brexit people voted for, and today you will lose the support of many Conservative MPs and millions of voters across the country,” Conservative lawmaker Peter Bone said.
Nicola Sturgeon, the head of Scotland’s pro-independence devolved government, said it would be unfair that any special trading deal which applies to Northern Ireland should not apply to Scotland after Britain leaves the European Union.
“(May’s) approach would take Scotland out of the single market — despite our 62 percent “remain” vote — but leave us competing for investment with Northern Ireland that is effectively still in it,” Sturgeon said.
Sterling, which has seesawed since reaching $1.50 just before the 2016 referendum, fell to 1.3010 on news of possible ministerial resignations after briefly jumping more than 1 percent after the deal was announced.
For the EU, reeling from successive crises over debt and immigration, the loss of Britain is the biggest blow yet to 60 years of efforts to forge European unity in the wake of two world wars.
EU leaders could meet on Nov. 25 for a summit to seal the Brexit deal if May’s cabinet approves the text, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said.
The ultimate outcome for the United Kingdom remains uncertain: scenarios range from a calm divorce to rejection of May’s deal, potentially sinking her premiership and leaving the bloc with no agreement, or another referendum.
May, an initial opponent of Brexit who won the top job in the turmoil following the referendum, has staked her future on a deal which she hopes will solve the Brexit riddle: leaving the EU while preserving the closest possible ties.
EU supporters say the deal leaves Britain worse off and subject to the bloc’s rules without any say in them.
Conservative lawmakers have to factor in the implications of defeating the deal which could topple May, delay Brexit, pave the way for a national election or lead to a new referendum.
The government has yet to give details of the Brexit deal, which runs to hundreds of pages, although a statement to parliament was likely on Thursday.
Brexit will pitch the world’s fifth largest economy into the unknown and many fear it will divide the West as it grapples with the unconventional US presidency of Donald Trump and growing assertiveness from Russia and China.
Supporters argue that in the longer term Brexit will allow the United Kingdom to thrive and strike global trade deals.
Some business chiefs were positive about May’s deal.
“My gut feeling is we need to get behind it and we need to make this deal work. What we need is certainty,” said Juergen Maier, the UK CEO of German engineering giant Siemens.
But James Stewart, head of Brexit at accounting firm KPMG said: “Until there is broader political alignment and fewer risks, business leaders have little option but to continue to assume that the quest for a deal could yet be derailed.”