Journalist was shot at point-blank range

Myanmar autopsy indicates intent to kill

Kyodo News

The Japanese video journalist killed during the bloody crackdown on protesters in Myanmar last week was shot at point-blank range, an autopsy has found.

Kenji Nagai, 50, was among at least nine people killed Thursday when soldiers fired automatic weapons into a crowd of prodemocracy demonstrators in Yangon. He was on contract with APF News, a Tokyo-based video news service.

The autopsy confirmed video footage of the crackdown aired Friday in Japan that showed a soldier pushing a man identified as Nagai to the ground and shooting him at close range. The autopsy suggests the soldier clearly intended to kill the journalist.

A doctor at a Yangon hospital briefed APF News President Toru Yamaji about the autopsy on Nagai’s body Saturday.

The autopsy showed that Nagai was shot from behind at a distance as close as 1 meter. He was hit by one bullet.

Yamaji quoted the doctor as saying Nagai is believed to have died almost instantly after the bullet penetrated the left side of his back.

Even after he was shot and lying on the ground, Nagai was still holding his video camera in his right hand, Yamaji quoted the doctor as saying.

The result of the autopsy was immediately reported to Nagai’s relatives in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture, Yamaji said.

“I realized that Mr. Nagai was dead when I saw his body,” Yamaji said in a statement issued through APF. “I was relieved a little because his facial expression was unexpectedly peaceful.

“I told him, ‘You must be tired. Let’s go home together,’ ” the statement said.

According to APF, Yamaji intends to take Nagai’s body to Japan at an early date for an autopsy by Japanese police.

Although the Myanmarese police returned several of Nagai’s video cameras to the Japanese Embassy, one that was used to film Thursday’s protest was not among them.

As more details of Nagai’s killing came to light, a senior Japanese envoy arrived Sunday evening in Yangon.

Deputy Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka will ask Myanmar’s military junta to conduct a full and honest investigation into Nagai’s death and punish those responsible.

“I want to demand a full accounting,” Yabunaka told reporters before departing for Yangon via Bangkok. “I will tell (the junta) to hold a dialogue with the prodemocracy movement.”

Yabunaka will reportedly try to meet Foreign Minister Nyan Win, Home Affairs Minister Maung Oo and other high-ranking officials during his stay in Yangon until Tuesday.

Japan is considering such actions as recalling its ambassador and reducing or suspending technical assistance.