Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai was shot dead in Yangon, Myanmar, on Sept. 27, 2007. (Provided by the Democratic Voice of Burma)

YANGON, Myanmar--A decade has passed since Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai was shot dead while covering an anti-government demonstration here in September 2007, but sadly for his bereaved family, justice has not been done.

It is believed that a Myanmar forces soldier aimed and fired at Nagai, then 50. However, the military junta of the time said his slaying was an accident caused by a stray bullet, and that explanation remains unchanged today.

Nagai’s younger sister, Noriko Ogawa, now 57, who lives in Nagai’s hometown of Imabari, Ehime Prefecture, wrote a letter to Myanmar government leader Aung San Suu Kyi in September this year to express her dismay at the situation.

Part of the letter read, “I have suppressed my hatred and fury against the military government until now.”


Nagai was killed on Sept. 27, 2007, when he was filming an anti-military junta demonstration in central Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city.

The military junta told the Japanese government that he had been hit by a stray bullet fired from dozens of meters from him and therefore it was an accident.

No apology was offered, and Nagai’s video camera has yet to be returned to Japan.

However, video footage captured by media organization Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) appears to show that Nagai was shot from behind at close range by a soldier.

According to related sources, an autopsy of his body, conducted in Japan, concluded that he was shot horizontally with a rifle from a distance of less than several meters.

In March 2016, the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by pro-democracy movement leader Suu Kyi, took the reins of the Myanmar government. At that time, Ogawa thought that an investigation into Nagai’s case could make progress.

However, the Japanese Foreign Ministry told her that the new Myanmar government had no plans to clarify responsibilities of officials in cases that took place during the military junta era.

Both of Nagai’s parents died in 2013 without having visited Yangon.

Ogawa decided to write a letter to Suu Kyi, thinking that she may not be very familiar with Nagai’s case.


She wrote about the past 10 years during which reform has progressed in Myanmar: “Despite more and more Japanese corporations making inroads in Myanmar, there has been no progress for us, the bereaved family, and time is passing in vain.”

Ogawa feels that with the passing of 10 years, it is not a realistic expectation under the current circumstances to identify a culprit and accuse the Myanmar forces.

Therefore, she wrote, “What is realistic is to please, please reveal what happened, and acknowledge that my brother was killed.”

Ogawa believes that Suu Kyi will clarify the truth.

DVB reporter Yan Naing, 56, who filmed the moment Nagai was killed, said, “I can’t forget the scene.”

When Yan Naing was on a pedestrian bridge nearby on that day, he saw Nagai turn his video camera toward a soldier. He thought the action was dangerous and followed Nagai with a video camera. Then, the sound of a gun echoed and Nagai fell.

Several days later, he handed over the videotape, which was put into a cigarette box, to a collaborator in a coffee shop in Yangon. The videotape was then taken to DVB’s office in neighboring Thailand.


The key members of the demonstration covered by Nagai were Buddhist priests. One was Pyin Nyar, 60.

“It is true that Nagai’s death that was reported globally pushed the democratization (of Myanmar),” he said.

However, he is frustrated by Myanmar’s current predicament in which Suu Kyi cannot implement her policies as military officers are occupying Cabinet posts such as defense minister and internal affairs minister.

“The military still holds the power. Our role toward achieving democratization has yet to end,” he said.