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Myanmar Assassination Shows Urgent Need for Unity Against Hate Crimes
Myanmar Assassination Shows Urgent Need for Unity Against Hate Crimes
Favourites of 2017: International Crisis Group on Myanmar
Favourites of 2017: International Crisis Group on Myanmar
Statement / Asia

Myanmar Assassination Shows Urgent Need for Unity Against Hate Crimes

The 29 January assassination of U Ko Ni, a respected Muslim veteran of the pro-democracy struggle, is a great loss to Myanmar and underlines the urgency for unity against all forms of hate speech and possible hate crimes.

It is with shock and great sadness that Crisis Group has learned of the assassination on 29 January of prominent Myanmar lawyer, U Ko Ni. A senior National League for Democracy (NLD) constitutional expert and adviser to Aung San Suu Kyi, he was one of the most high-profile Muslim voices in the country. 

U Ko Ni was shot twice in the head at close range, at Yangon International Airport; a 52-year-old man was reportedly arrested at the scene. U Ko Ni was returning from an official visit to Indonesia with a cross-section of senior Buddhist and Muslim figures involved in addressing tensions in Rakhine State. The trip was aimed at sharing experiences of overcoming inter-religious tensions.

While the motive of the attacker is not known at this time, this killing has all the appearances of a hate crime, and is of grave concern at a time of heightened communal and religious tensions in Myanmar. These have recently escalated following deadly attacks on Myanmar border police bases in Rakhine State last October, and a brutal military response against local Rohingya villagers.

The killing of U Ko Ni, a widely respected veteran of the pro-democracy struggle, is a great loss to Myanmar. Such killings of political leaders have been extremely rare in Myanmar, even during the dark decades of dictatorship. But there is a serious risk that in a context of strong anti-Muslim sentiment in the country, rampant hate speech on social media, and virulent Buddhist nationalism propounded by some senior monks, this crime could embolden others and unleash further violence.

It is essential that a prompt, credible and transparent investigation is conducted and that no stone is left unturned in finding the truth about this incident and who may have been behind it. The killing also underlines the urgency of the Myanmar government and society coming together to condemn all forms of hate speech, confront it wherever it occurs, and take resolute action against those responsible for disseminating it.

Impact Note / Asia

Favourites of 2017: International Crisis Group on Myanmar

Originally published in Lowy Institute

Looking back at 2017, Australia's Lowy Institute and contributors to its Lowy Interpreter website offer a selection of their favourite articles, books, films and TV programs of the year. This post, written by independent researcher Elliot Brennan, is part of the Favourites of 2017 debate thread and praises the role of Crisis Group's research in and analytical reports about Myanmar.

In a year of such mud and murk in Myanmar, far too little commentary has been well informed, balanced or timely.

Myanmar’s ballooning Facebook effect, which in 2015 emboldened many to vote in Aung San Suu Kyi’s landslide election victory, had a more sinister influence in the proliferation of hate speech in 2017. This ultimately led to conditions for what appears to have become the most deadly few months in modern Myanmar’s history.

There were few sources of consistently accurate and balanced information in the immensely emotional environment in which Myanmar exists for among news media, rights activists and too many casual analysts. That is an indictment on the state of commentary and the susceptibility to hyperbolic and emotive social media. Moreover, it has been wholly destructive in finding the solutions that such thorny problems need.

International Crisis Group has consistently cut through this echo chamber. Their nuanced and balanced reports on Myanmar have been a bedrock in a sea of false, misleading or downright dangerous reporting and advocacy from all sides. To their credit, the timely papers by ICG on the situation in Rakhine state, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, as well as Myanmar’s politics more generally, have proved distressingly prophetic. The reports are essential reading for anyone wanting to comment on Myanmar’s politics or the devastating events that have unfolded this year.

In 2018, we will no doubt need to find more oracles of balance and considered wisdom, lest Facebook and other more intentionally malign actors gobble up more of the hard-fought successes in the region and beyond.