Japan mourns death in Yangon of video journalist

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TOKYO, Oct 8 (Reuters) Japan today mourned the death of a video journalist who was fatally shot in Yangon during last month's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

Hundreds of people, including scores of Myanmar nationals, gathered at a cemetery in central Tokyo, to join the memorial service for Japanese video journalist Kenji Nagai.

Nagai, 50, was shot when the military opened fire on protesters in Yangon on Sept. 27. Footage smuggled out of the country appeared to show a soldier shooting Nagai at point-blank range, but Myanmar officials have said he was shot accidentally.

''Honestly speaking, I still can't believe Kenji Nagai is dead,'' Toru Yamaji, head of the APF News organisation for which Nagai had worked on contract, told the ceremony. ''I still can't accept the reality.'' Japanese police have been carrying out an autopsy to determine how Nagai was killed. Their findings, which could prompt Tokyo to take punitive steps against Myanmar, have yet to be announced.

''You were there to send to Japan and the world video footage about what was happening to the people of Myanmar under military rule,'' Japanese journalist Shuntaro Torigoe told the ceremony.

Mathidawin Kyaw, a 40-year-old Myanmar national who sought asylum in Japan about 18 years ago, told reporters: ''As a Burmese, I feel ashamed of the military. I would like to say to Nagai 'we're sorry'.'' Japanese officials said last week that Tokyo may suspend some 500 million yen (4.27 million dollar) in aid for Myanmar, although some officials said Tokyo would maintain its policy of engagement and had no plans to suspend trade or freeze Myanmar's assets.

Tokyo says Myanmar must hand over a small video camera that Nagai was clutching as he died near the Sule Pagoda. The camera was missing from personal items returned by Myanmar officials.

Japan has shown more willingness to engage Myanmar than most Western countries and is one of its biggest aid donors.

Japan has withheld full-scale aid to impoverished Myanmar since democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi was detained in 2003, but it has funded emergency health projects and provided some training and technological transfers.

Japan has provided a total of about 3 billion yen in aid annually in recent years, down from 10 billion in 2001.


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