A prominent Muslim lawyer and adviser to Myanmar’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party has been assassinated along with a taxi driver outside the country’s busiest airport.
Ko Ni was shot dead as he got into a taxi in front of the main terminal of Yangon International Airport at 5:00 pm (1030 GMT) on Sunday after returning from a government-led trip to Indonesia, his assistant, San Naing, said.
“They shot my boss. He is dead. I am beside his body and there’s blood on the floor,” Naing told Reuters by phone.
Zaw Htay, a spokesman at the presidential office, said the prominent lawyer died “on the spot.”
The unidentified lone assassin also killed a taxi driver and injured two other people.
Police have arrested a suspect but there are no reports on the potential motives behind the assassination so far.
Ko Ni was an expert in constitutional law and advised the NLD on legal affairs. He was a rare voice advocating religious tolerance and pluralism.
The UN’s special rapporteur for Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, expressed her outrage over Ko Ni’s murder and said she had met the top lawyer during her last trip to the country earlier in January which also included a visit to western Rakhine state.
“My deepest and most sincere condolences to the family of Ko Ni the most prominent and respected Muslim lawyer of Myanmar,” she said on her Twitter account.
She also called on Myanmar’s government to “get to the bottom” of his killing.
The daylight shooting comes amid Myanmar government’s heightened crackdown against Rohingya Muslims.
Myanmar’s military intensified its crackdown in Rakhine state after an attack on the country’s border guards on October 9, 2016 left nine police officers dead, which the government blamed on the Rohingya.
There are reports that at least 400 people have been killed, more than 2,500 houses, mosques, and religious schools destroyed, and three villages completely wiped out during the military crackdown.
Myanmar’s government has also blocked humanitarian and media access to Rakhine which is home to about 1.1 million Rohingya.
Rohingya Muslims have been subjected to executions, rape, and arson attacks since October, according to refugees and rights groups.