Myanmar executes and sentences four democracy activists

  • Those executed include a figure of democracy, a former deputy
  • The activists had been convicted after a closed-door trial
  • Arakan’s army militia says the executions dash hopes for peace
  • More than 100 death row inmates have also been sentenced, according to Amnesty

July 25 (Reuters) – Myanmar’s military junta has executed four pro-democracy activists accused of helping carry out “acts of terror”, it said on Monday, prompting widespread condemnation of the first executions in the southern nation- East Asia in decades.

Sentenced to death in closed-door trials in January and April, the four men had been accused of helping insurgents fight the army that seized power in a coup last year and unleashed a bloody crackdown on his opponents.

Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG), a shadow administration banned by the ruling junta, condemned the executions and called for international action against the ruling army.

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“Extremely sad…condemn the cruelty of the junta,” Kyaw Zaw, the spokesman for the NUG president’s office, told Reuters in a message. “The global community must punish their cruelty.”

Among those executed were democracy activist Kyaw Min Yu, better known as Jimmy, and former lawmaker and hip-hop artist Phyo Zeya Thaw, the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.

Kyaw Min Yu, 53, and Phyo Zeya Thaw, a 41-year-old ally of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, lost their appeals against the sentences in June. The other two executed were Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw.

“These executions amount to the arbitrary deprivation of life and are yet another example of Myanmar’s appalling human rights record,” said Erwin Van Der Borght, regional director of Amnesty International’s rights group.

“The four men were convicted by a military court in highly secret and deeply unfair trials. The international community must act immediately, as more than 100 people are believed to be on death row after being convicted in similar procedures”.

Thazin Nyunt Aung, Phyo Zeyar Thaw’s wife, said she had not been informed of her husband’s execution. Other family members could not immediately be reached for comment.

The men had been held in the colonial-era Insein prison and a person familiar with the matter said their families visited last Friday. Only one family member was allowed to speak to the detainees through an online platform, the source added.

State media reported the executions on Monday, and junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun later confirmed the sentences to the Voice of Myanmar. Neither gave details of the weather.

Previous executions in Myanmar have been by hanging.

An activist group, the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners (AAPP), said Myanmar’s last judicial executions were in the late 1980s.


Last month, the junta’s spokesman, Zaw Min Tun, defended the death penalty, saying it was justified and used in many countries.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), appealed in a letter in June to the junta’s leader, Min Aung Hlaing, not to carry out the executions, conveying deep concern among Myanmar’s neighbors.

“Not even the previous military regime, which ruled from 1988 to 2011, dared to carry out the death penalty against political prisoners,” said Malaysian MP Charles Santiago, president of the Parliamentarians of ASEAN for Human Rights.

“This means another increase in the junta’s brutality, which stems from a sense of impunity fueled in large part by the failure of the global community to do anything effective to prevent it from committing further atrocities.”

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said the executions, which go against Japan’s repeated demand for a peaceful resolution as well as its demands to release detainees, will further isolate Myanmar.

Myanmar has been in chaos since last year’s coup, with conflict spreading across the country after the army crushed mostly peaceful protests in cities.

The AAPP says more than 2,100 people have been killed by security forces since the coup. The board says that figure is exaggerated.

The true picture of the violence has been difficult to assess as the fighting has spread to more remote areas where ethnic minority insurgent groups are also fighting the army.

The executions have dashed hopes of any peace deal, said the Arakan Army (AA), a major ethnic militia in Myanmar’s restive Rakhine state.

“This act obliterated ASEAN members’ efforts towards peace and reconciliation,” the AA said in a statement, adding that the executions would only attract “more courageous heroes in the future and contribute to the spring revolution”.

Last Friday, the World Court rejected Myanmar’s objections to a genocide case over its treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority, paving the way for a full hearing. Read more

The latest executions close any chance of ending the unrest in Myanmar, said analyst Richard Horsey of the International CRISIS group.

“This is the regime that shows it will do what it wants and listen to no one,” Horsey told Reuters. “He sees this as a show of strength, but it could be a serious miscalculation.”

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Reuters staff reports; Written by Ed Davies and Michael Perry; Edited by Lincoln Feast and Clarence Fernandez

Our standards: the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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