BANGKOK (AP) – Myanmar’s government announced Monday it had carried out its first executions in nearly 50 years, hanging a former National League for Democracy lawmaker, a democracy activist and two men accused of violence following the country’s military takeover last year.
The executions, detailed in the state government Mirror Daily newspaper, was carried out despite worldwide pleas for clemency for the four political prisoners, including from UN experts and Cambodia, which holds the rotating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asia.
The four were executed “in accordance with legal procedures” for directing and organizing “violent and inhuman accomplice terrorist killings,” the newspaper reported. It did not say when the executions were carried out.
The military government issued a brief statement confirming the report, while the prison where the men had been held and the prisons department declined to comment.
Aung Myo Min, human rights minister for the National Unity Government, a civilian shadow administration established outside Myanmar after the military seized power in February 2021, denied allegations that the men were involved in violence.
“Punishing them with death is a way of controlling the public through fear,” he told the Associated Press.
Among those executed was Phyo Zeya Thaw, a former lawmaker from ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, also known as Maung Kyaw, who was convicted by a closed military court in January of offenses involving explosives, bombings and terrorist financing.
His wife, Thazin Nyunt Aung, told the AP that she had not been informed that his execution had been carried out. “I’m still trying to confirm it myself,” she said.
The 41-year-old had been arrested last November based on information from people detained for shooting security personnel, state media said at the time. He was also accused of being a key figure in a network that carried out what the military described as terrorist attacks in Yangon, the country’s largest city.
Phyo Zeya Thaw had been a hip-hop musician before joining the Generation Wave political movement formed in 2007. He was imprisoned in 2008 under a former military government after being accused of illegal association and possession of foreign currency.
Kyaw Min Yu, a 53-year-old democracy activist better known as Ko Jimmy, was also executed for violating the Anti-Terrorism Act. Kyaw Min Yu was one of the leaders of the 88 Generation Students Group, veterans of a failed popular uprising against military rule in 1988.
He had already spent more than a dozen years behind bars for political activism before he was arrested in Yangon last October. He had been put on a wanted list for social media posts allegedly inciting unrest, and state media said he was accused of acts of terrorism, including mine attacks, and of heading a group called Moon Light Operation to carry out urban guerrilla attacks.
The other two men, Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw, were convicted of torturing and killing a woman in March 2021 who they allegedly believed to be a military informant.
Elaine Pearson, acting Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said the trials of the four had been “grossly unfair and politically motivated military trials.”
“The junta’s barbarism and ruthless disregard for human life is intended to chill the anti-coup protest movement,” she said after announcing the executions.
Thomas Andrews, an independent UN-appointed human rights expert who had condemned the decision to go ahead with the executions when they were announced in June, called for a strong international response.
“”I am outraged and devastated by the news of the junta’s execution of Myanmar patriots and defenders of human rights and decency,” he said in a statement. “These individuals were tried, convicted and sentenced by a military court with no right of appeal. and allegedly without legal advice, in violation of international human rights law.”
Myanmar’s foreign ministry had dismissed the wave of criticism that followed its announcement in June, stating that Myanmar’s justice system is fair and that Phyo Zeya Thaw and Kyaw Min Yu were “shown to be the masterminds of orchestrating full-scale terrorist attacks against innocent civilians for to instill fear and disturb peace and stability.”
“They killed at least 50 people,” military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun said on live television last month. He said the decision to hang all four prisoners was in accordance with the rule of law and aimed at preventing similar incidents in the future.
The military’s takeover of Suu Kyi’s elected government sparked peaceful protests that quickly escalated into armed resistance and then into full-scale fighting, which some UN experts characterize as a civil war.
Some resistance groups have engaged in assassinations, shootings and bombings in urban areas. Mainstream opposition organizations generally reject such activities, while supporting armed resistance in rural areas that are more often subject to brutal military attacks.
According to Myanmar law, executions must be approved by the head of government. The last judicial execution carried out in Myanmar is generally believed to have been of another political offender, student leader Salai Tin Maung Oo, in 1976 under a former military government led by dictator Ne Win.
In 2014, the sentences of prisoners on death row were commuted to life imprisonment, but several dozen convicts received death sentences between then and last year’s takeover.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a non-governmental organization that tracks killings and arrests, said on Friday that 2,114 civilians have been killed by security forces since the military took power. It said 115 other people had been sentenced to death.
In its first executions in almost 50 years, Myanmar executes 4 democracy activists: NPR
Source link In its first executions in almost 50 years, Myanmar executes 4 democracy activists: NPR