CHIANG MAI, Thailand — A former military officer in Myanmar is suspected of ordering the killing of a prominent human rights lawyer who was a top adviser to the country’s leader, the office of Myanmar’s civilian president announced on Wednesday.
The lawyer, U Ko Ni, one of the most prominent Muslims in the majority Buddhist country, was fatally shot at Yangon International Airport on Jan. 29 in what appears to have been a rare political assassination in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.
When he was killed, Mr. Ko Ni, who was 65, was returning to Yangon, Myanmar, from a trip to Indonesia. He had been cradling his young grandson in his arms when he was shot in the head.
In a statement released Wednesday evening, the president’s office said that Aung Win Khine, 45, a retired lieutenant colonel, was suspected of paying 100 million kyat, or about $71,500, to the person who killed Mr. Ko Ni.
The president’s office said Colonel Aung Win Khine, who retired from the army in 2014, was at large and published his photograph with a request for people to share information on his whereabouts.
Mr. Ko Ni had been well known within Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party, the National League for Democracy, for his efforts to amend the Constitution and write a new one. Before being killed, he had been drafting a Constitution that would have stripped the military of its powers and would have established peace agreements with armed ethnic groups.
“If the military still focuses on protecting its interests, it will be impossible to change any part of the Constitution within Parliament,” he said last year during an interview with a Burmese newspaper. “That’s why writing a new one is the best way to pursue a democratic Constitution.”
At least two suspects related to the killing are already in custody: U Kyi Lin, accused of shooting Mr. Ko Ni, and U Aung Win Zaw, 46, the elder brother of Colonel Aung Win Khine.