YANGON / AP
Myanmar politicians, activists and others shocked by the assassination of a longtime adviser to leader Aung San Suu Kyi gathered on Monday at a cemetery for an emotional funeral ceremony, while police investigated the motive for the killing.
Ko Ni, a prominent lawyer and member of Myanmar’s Muslim minority, was shot in the head at close range as he walked out of the Yangon airport Sunday. “This is a great loss not only for our community but also for the country,” Win Myint, a Muslim religious leader, said at the funeral. “He was necessary to our country’s democratic system.”
The killing shocked many in Yangon because attacks on prominent people are rare, although security forces are notorious for brutal behavior in remote rural areas, especially when dealing with ethnic minorities.
Ko Ni “is irreplaceable for both Aung San Suu Kyi and the party,” Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy party said in a statement. He was especially valued as an expert in constitutional law, looking for ways to sidestep provisions placed in the charter by an earlier military junta to retain power at the expense of elected governments. He was seen as a familiar and helpful figure by journalists and human rights workers who have found Suu Kyi’s government almost as difficult to deal with as the military-backed regime it replaced.
At the same time, Ko Ni was active in defending the rights of Muslims, who often face discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar. Last year, he helped found the Myanmar Muslim Lawyers Association, which was criticized by ultra-nationalist Buddhists monks as well as by some of his political allies, who feared it encouraged sectarianism.