Japanese journalist's body returns from Burma

TOKYO Thu Oct 4, 2007 9:03am BST

A member of the airport staff unloads the coffin containing the body of Japanese video journalist Kenji Nagai after its flight from Bangkok at New Tokyo international airport in Narita, east of Tokyo, October 4, 2007.REUTERS/Issei Kato

A member of the airport staff unloads the coffin containing the body of Japanese video journalist Kenji Nagai after its flight from Bangkok at New Tokyo international airport in Narita, east of Tokyo, October 4, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Issei Kato

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TOKYO (Reuters) - The body of a Japanese video journalist who was shot dead during a crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Myanmar was returned home on Thursday, and was due to be taken for an autopsy.

The results of the investigation are likely be a factor as Japan weighs whether to take action against military-ruled Myanmar, such as cutting back economic assistance.

Kenji Nagai, 50, was shot when the military opened fire on protesters in Yangon on September 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.

"He has finally been able to return, a week after the incident," said Toru Yamaji, head of the APF News organisation for which Nagai worked on contract. "Nagai would be happy."

Airline staff placed a bouquet of flowers on the coffin, after which the body was taken off the plane and to a Tokyo hospital for the autopsy. Nagai's parents would be at the hospital.

On Wednesday, Japanese officials said the government may suspend some 500 million yen ($4.3 million) in aid, although one official said Tokyo would maintain its policy of engagement and had no plans to suspend trade or freeze Myanmar's assets.

Japanese media have also said police will investigate the case on suspicion of murder, in accordance with a law that allows them to carry out a probe in cooperation with local authorities in cases where Japanese nationals are victims of serious crimes.

A Japanese envoy was in Myanmar earlier in the week to try to ensure a full investigation into Nagai's death.

Tokyo says the small video camera he was clutching as he died near the Sule Pagoda was missing from items returned by Myanmar officials.

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 ($25.84 million) in aid annually in recent years, down from 10 billion in 2001.

($1=116.11 Yen)

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