Myanmar Now editor suffered gunshot wound to leg during trip to southern Rakhine last year

On December 31 2019, Myanmar Now’s editor-in-chief Swe Win suffered a gunshot wound to his leg while on a family vacation in the town of Gwa in southern Rakhine state. The assailant or assailants were hidden from view and have not yet been identified. 

Swe Win has kept silent about this incident until now because he did not want to disrupt the police inquiry and, above all, did not want to become part of the news. 

In the aftermath of the shooting, officials from the General Administration Department (GAD) conducted a preliminary inquiry on orders from Rakhine’s Chief Minister, Nyi Pu. Details of the inquiry have still not been released.

Over the past 11 months, Myanmar Now has quietly investigated the shooting while waiting for the official results of the inquiry. Since all our efforts have been exhausted and we see no prospect of the results of the official inquiry coming to light, we have decided to go public about the incident. 

The following is a chronology of events covering key details of what we know so far about the attack:

• ‌‌On the morning of December 30, 2019, Swe Win, his wife, and their four-year-old daughter travelled with a Myanmar Now colleague, his wife and their four-year-old son from the town of Thandwe in southern Rakhine state to the coastal town of Gwa in a rented passenger van. 

• Halfway through the trip, the driver of the van received a phone call from a military intelligence officer in Thandwe, who asked the whereabouts of Swe Win. Swe Win was not alarmed by this since he is relatively well-known in Myanmar and it is routine for many security officials to track the movements of journalists. 

• Swe Win reached a guesthouse with the others at 1pm that day and told the guesthouse owner that his group would be leaving at 8am on the following morning and heading to Thandwe airport. The guesthouse owner received multiple phone calls during Swe Win’s stay from an officer at the nearby Kantharyar police station, a military intelligence officer and a local administrative official. They all said he must inform them when Swe Win was leaving and tell them the name of the driver of their van and the van’s license plate number. The guesthouse owner told Swe Win about the phone calls after the shooting.

• As requested, the guesthouse owner informed the police officer once Swe Win left with the others on the morning of December 31.

• Forty minutes later, the van was hit by a bullet as it slowly turned a corner on a rough countryside lane. The bullet came from the direction of a narrow stretch of three-foot high grass that lies along the coast. Fortunately, the bullet hit the keyhole of the door at which Swe Win was sitting. The steel lock broke and caused the bullet to change course and hit Swe Win’s leg. If it weren’t for the lock, the bullet could have hit a vital organ and killed him. 

• Swe Win’s family members, his colleague, and the colleague’s wife and son were all in the vehicle at the time but were physically unharmed. 

• In the immediate aftermath of the incident, the local township police officer called the guesthouse owner and said Swe Win had been hit by flying debris from a dynamite explosion at a rock quarry.

• A piece of the bullet, which was made of lead, was removed from the gunshot wound and handed over to the police. 

• Swe Win underwent an hour-long surgical procedure at Yangon General Hospital for the gunshot wound.

• Three days after he was hospitalised, he had a phone conversation with Kaung Myat Naing, the chief of the GAD in Thandwe. He told Swe Win that there were no roadworks nor any kind of rock quarry in the area of the incident and no permit had been issued to anyone to carry out work involving explosions there. The GAD officer also said that the local police were not aware of Swe Win’s presence in the area prior to the shooting incident, though that contradicts what the guesthouse owner said about receiving phone calls from a township police officer. 

We strongly believe that the shooting was meant as a threat aimed at discouraging Myanmar Now from confronting powerful interests with its journalism. It will not work. We will continue our independent, unbiased reporting with as much determination and conviction as ever.  



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