Threats made against human rights lawyer Robert Sann Aung

By SAM AUNG MOON | FRONTIER

YANGON — Prominent lawyer U Robert Sann Aung said he has received several death threats in recent months, and is concerned for his safety since the assassination of fellow lawyer U Ko Ni in January. 

“Since the night of Ko Ni’s assassination, I have received phone calls saying ‘You are next,’ and ‘Don’t think about touching the constitution,’” Robert Sann Aung, one of Myanmar’s most prominent human rights lawyers, told Frontier on Wednesday, adding that neighbours told him that some people have turned up at his apartment while he was away.

He said he has also received text messages using “extremely vulgar language” as well as insulting pictures via the popular messaging app Viber.

“I don’t know exactly who is doing it; it’s hard to say. But if I was to observe their actions, I think it is someone who doesn’t want to see the constitution amended,” the lawyer said.

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Ko Ni, an advisor to the National League for Democracy who was working on changes to the constitution, was assassinated while waiting for a taxi at Yangon International Airport on January 29. Two of the four men currently on trial for plotting the brazen murder are former members of the Tatmadaw and a fifth suspect, who remains at large, is also said to have links with the military.

At a news conference on February 28, Chief of the General Staff, General Mya Htun Oo said the Tatmadaw was not involved in the crime and was providing technical assistance to those investigating the killing.

A statement by human rights group Amnesty International, published on Tuesday, said Robert Sann Aung first noticed he was being followed while transiting in Mandalay for work on December 19, 2016.

Robert Sann Aung said he has faced difficulties reporting the harassment because he doesn’t know who is behind it.

The statement urged authorities to ensure the lawyer’s safety and to order an investigation into the threats.

“The threats against Robert Sann Aung must be taken seriously, and the authorities should send a clear message that intimidation of human rights activists will not be tolerated,” said Ms Laura Haigh, Amnesty’s Myanmar Researcher.

“We continue to receive reports of activists being monitored, followed and photographed. This situation contributes to a climate of fear and may lead to some activists self-censoring and limiting their activities – it has to stop.”

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