Violence and Unrest in Yangon

January 31, 2017

One hour after I arrived at Yangon Airport on Sunday,  U Ko Ni, trusted advisor to Aung San Sui Kyi and legal strategist framing changes to Myanmar's constitution, was tragically shot and killed while holding his grandson and waiting for his taxi. His assassin, apparently promised a car for the killing, was arrested at the scene. Speculation is rampant over motif.  U Ko Ni was a Muslim. Was his murder linked to the current Muslim/Buddhist unrest in Myanmar? Or was his death a direct attempt to circumvent ASSK's ability to change the constitution to allow her to assume a role of President?  Word on the street is the latter.


U Ko Ni was a powerful and respected lawyer for the National League of Democracy.  His loss will significantly hamper the NLD's ability to move forward effectively and in a timely manner with their plans to achieve a true democracy.


This horrific killing is the latest of many signs of unrest in Myanmar since its first democratic government took office in March 2016 after 50 years of military control. Always known as a relatively crime free country, crime rates have skyrocketed, affecting both Burmese and foreigners.  Who are the perpetrators?  - most likely, the thousands of hardened criminals freed from prison post military rule.


International human rights activists are appalled at the current violence directed towards Rohingya Muslims by radical Buddhists.  Is it a religious battle or a political subterfuge? Again, word on the street is the latter.  Whatever the cause, people are losing their lives and subsisting without basic human rights. The view of the international community is that no viable solution is in sight.


Cease fire agreements signed post-2012 in Shan, Karen, and Kachin States have fallen by the wayside.  Again, people are losing their lives and their rights, and no viable solution is on the horizon. 


Myanmar's economy is struggling. The impact of flooding in 2015 on agriculture contributed to a sharp rise in inflation, peaking at 16% in October 2015.  Exports declined by 12%. This has contributed to a growing trade deficit and pressures on the exchange rate. (World Bank's Economic Monitor).  Already a country steeped in poverty, conditions have worsened. 


My initial response in learning of this current level of unrest and economic hardship is sheer despondency.  My heart is connected to these people who have suffered for so many years and yet continue to hope for a better life. 


As with all of us in this crazy world today, life can be so overwhelming.  For me, I must remind myself to take one day at a time, doing whatever I can to try to make a positive difference. 








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