Activist state

Myanmar junta executes four democracy activists

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Myanmar’s military junta has executed four pro-democracy activists, state media and the US Embassy in Yangon reported, carrying out its first executions in more than three decades and defying international calls for restraint.

The four men included two high profile activists: Kyaw Min Yu, also known as Ko Jimmy, who rose to prominence during a series of student uprisings in 1988, and Phyo Zeya Thaw, a hip-hop artist became an MP who was widely admired among young people in Myanmar.

Phyo Zeya Thaw, 41, and Ko Jimmy, 53, were convicted of terrorism and sentenced to death in closed trials last fall. The other two men executed were Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw, state media reported, who were found guilty of murdering a suspected military informant.

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Moe Zaw Oo, a member of the national unity government – an alliance of anti-junta groups, many of them in exile – said NUG officials were alerted to the executions early on Monday. “It’s unbelievable. … This will only create more violence across the country,” Moe Zaw Oo told The Washington Post.

Aung Myo Min, another NUG minister and prominent human rights activist, wrote on Twitter that he was “extremely saddened” by the news. “What else do we need to prove how cruel Myanmar’s deadly army is?” he wrote.

Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun confirmed the convictions to local news agency Voice of Myanmar, but declined to comment further.

Myanmar’s military first seized power in 1962, but gradually loosened its grip, allowing general elections and an influx of international businesses, which introduced the country to digital technology and social media. Led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, opposition politicians from the National League for Democracy came to power in 2015, but their reign was short-lived. The military violently regained control in February 2021.

Myanmar’s military has not used the death penalty for more than 30 years, but amid a violent – and so far unsuccessful – campaign to root out resistance, authorities are turning to new forms of bullying, experts say.

At least 117 people have been sentenced to death in the past year, according to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners, a Myanmar non-profit organization that follows and tries to verify the status of people detained by the junta.

The executions of pro-democracy activists were condemned on Monday by human rights defenders and the international community.

“We condemn the military regime’s execution of pro-democracy leaders and elected officials for exercising their fundamental freedoms,” the U.S. Embassy in Myanmar said. said in a press release on Twitter.

“We join the people of Myanmar in mourning the loss of Ko Jimmy, Phyo Zeya Thaw, Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw,” he added. “Our deepest condolences to their families and many friends.”

“The junta’s barbarity and its utter disregard for human life is on full display here. There are many, many more who have been unjustly sentenced to death since the coup by these secret military tribunals, and this act has a chilling effect on the pro-democracy movement,” said researcher Manny Maung. to Human Rights Watch which focuses on Myanmar, said in an email.

The advocacy group called on the United States, Europe and others to demand the “immediate release of all political prisoners” and put in place measures that would halt the flow of revenue to the military junta.

Tom Andrews, the UN special rapporteur for Myanmar, said in a statement that he was “outraged and devastated” by the news.

“These depraved acts must be a turning point for the international community,” he said.

“What more does the junta need to do before the international community is ready to take strong action? he added, pointing to what he called “widespread and systematic killings of protesters, indiscriminate attacks on entire villages, and now the execution of opposition leaders”.

Cape Diamond in Yangon, Myanmar contributed to this report.