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Myanmar's Suu Kyi breaks silence on killing of top lawyer

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

Ko Ni, a prominent Muslim lawyer and critic of Myanmar’s powerful military, was shot dead on 29 January outside Yangon airport in a murder that sent shockwaves through the country’s young civilian government.

A taxi driver, Ne Win, was also killed trying to stop the gunman who was arrested. Authorities say he was hired by a former military officer 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.

But Suu Kyi, a close friend of Ko Ni, remained silent in the wake of the incident.

On Sunday 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.

He also condemned the increasing Islamophobia that has swept through the nation in recent years, stirred up by hardline Buddhist nationalists.

That Suu Kyi said so little about the killing surprised some observers, but since her government took power last May after years of army-led rule, her administration has taken on something of a bunker mentality.

Suu Kyi rarely gives policy speeches, releases statements or holds press conferences.

Her young administration has had to deal with both soaring expectations of the electorate and a series of crises.

Some of the worst fighting in decades has broken out between the military and ethnic rebels, hampering her dream of forging a nationwide ceasefire.

Meanwhile the UN says security forces “very likely” committed crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing towards the Muslim Rohingya minority in a security crackdown last year.

Suu Kyi has defended the military’s Rohingya crackdown, much to the dismay of many of Myanmar’s western allies, who saw the country’s transition from dictatorship to quasi-democracy as a rare success after the failures of the Arab Spring.

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.

“Our citizens who have been struggling hard for many decades may think it’s a very long time. But for the history of a country, for the history of a government, 10 months or one year is not much. This is just a short period,” she said.

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Philippines rights body to probe Duterte killing boast

MANILA: The Philippines’ independent rights watchdog said on Thursday (Dec 22) it will investigate President Rodrigo Duterte’s boasts he killed criminals years ago, invoking a strong rebuke from the Filipino leader against a United Nations official who called for the murder probe.

Duterte, who is waging an anti-drugs war that has left thousands dead, said last week that he helped police kill three suspected kidnappers early in the first of his several terms as mayor of the southern city of Davao.

UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said on Tuesday that Duterte’s killings, by his own admission, “clearly constitute murder” and Philippine judicial authorities must launch an investigation.

Duterte, known for his foul-mouthed outbursts, replied to Zeid’s call in a speech on Thursday with a stream of insults, describing the UN official as “either a joker or slightly unhinged” while stating that UN member-nations’ contributions pay the UN officials’ salaries.

Philippine Commission on Human Rights chief Jose Gascon said earlier on Thursday he had formed a team of investigators to look into alleged past killings by Duterte.

“Law enforcement agencies … must investigate as a matter of course any information that suggests that a crime may have been committed with the view to ensuring that perpetrators are ultimately held accountable should the evidence warrant it,” Gascon said in a statement.

The commission is an independent government body that prosecutes law enforcers or other officials who commit torture, extrajudicial killings or violate Filipinos’ constitutional rights.

NEW REVELATIONS

It had investigated then Davao mayor Duterte over allegations he ran death squads that killed more than a thousand petty criminals there.

Duterte has variously denied or confirmed the allegations. The commission did not file any criminal charges after completing its inquiry.

But Gascon said his agency had “reconstituted a team to further investigate (Davao death squads) to look into the new revelations and public admissions that may shed light on our previous findings.”

“The team will look into any matter that may further shed light on the killings in Davao that was the subject matter of our previous investigation.”

Duterte easily won presidential elections in May largely on a promise to eradicate illegal drugs in society by launching an unprecedented campaign in which tens of thousands of people would be killed.

More than 5,300 people have died since he took office in late June, including 2,124 at the hands of police. The commission has said it is investigating several cases where police were responsible.

Duterte insists police have not violated any law in killing drug suspects.

On Wednesday Duterte’s spokesman said his admission about the killing of three people referred to “legitimate police action” but did not address the fact the then mayor was not a police officer.

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Pakistan police investigate 'honour' killing of British woman

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani police are investigating after a British man claimed his wife had been murdered in a so-called “honour” killing, ten days after the death of a social media star cast a spotlight on the practice.

Mukhtar Kazam registered a complaint with police in Punjab province claiming his wife, 28-year-old Samia Shahid, was murdered in her family’s village while visiting them.

The couple, both British-Pakistani dual citizens, had been married for two years and were living in Dubai, police told AFP, adding that it was Shahid’s second marriage.

“Her parents did not approve,” local police official Aqeel Abbas said, citing Kazam’s complaint.

He said Shahid was visiting her family’s village Pindori in Punjab’s Jehlum district.

“She was killed on July 20. She has been killed for honour,” Abbas said, quoting the complaint.

Officers are now waiting for a post-mortem report, he said, without specifying how Shahid’s husband alleged she was murdered.

In his own statement to police, Shahid’s father denied any charges that his daughter was killed for “honour”, adding that he did not want an investigation as she had died of natural causes.

“Honour” killings – a custom in which a relative is killed by another for bringing the family dishonour – are a near daily occurrence in Pakistan. The victims are overwhelmingly women, with hundreds killed each year.

Earlier this month the murder of social media star Qandeel Baloch by her brother, who said it was for “honour”, provoked international shock and revulsion.

The killing polarised Pakistan and appears to have spurred politicians to take action. Last week the law minister announced that bills aimed at tackling loopholes that facilitate “honour” killings would soon be voted on by parliament.

Rights groups and politicians have for years called for tougher laws to tackle perpetrators of violence against women in Pakistan.

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