Monday July 25, 2022

Myanmar executes four democracy activists

Myanmar executes four democracy activists

Demonstrators hold placards with the image of Aung San Suu Kyi during a protest in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. File/Reuters

Myanmar's military junta on Monday said it had executed four democracy activists accused of helping to carry out "terror acts" in the Southeast Asian nation's first executions in decades, sparking widespread condemnation.

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


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

"Extremely saddened ... condemn the junta's cruelty," the NUG president’s office spokesman Kyaw Zaw told Reuters via message. "The global community must punish their cruelty."

Myanmar executes four democracy activists
Kyaw Min Yu, a pro-democracy activist talks to journalists in Yangon. File/AP

Among those executed were democracy figure 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 Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, lost their appeals against the sentences in June. The two others executed were Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw.

"I am outraged and devastated at the news of the junta's execution of Myanmar patriots and champions of human rights and democracy," Tom Andrews, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said in a statement.

"My heart goes out to their families, friends and loved ones and indeed all the people in Myanmar who are victims of the junta's escalating atrocities ... These depraved acts must be a turning point for the international community."

Myanmar executes four democracy activists
This file photo shows the democracy activist Phyo Zeya Thaw. AP

Thazin Nyunt Aung, the wife of Phyo Zeyar Thaw, said she had not been told of her husband's execution. Other relatives could not immediately be reached for comment.

The men had been held in the colonial-era Insein prison and a person with knowledge of the events said their families visited the prison last Friday. Only one relative was allowed to speak to the detainees via the Zoom online platform, said the person.

Myanmar's state media on Monday reported the executions had taken place and junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun later confirmed the executions to Voice of Myanmar. Neither gave any details about when the executions occurred.

Previous executions in Myanmar have been by hanging.

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

International condemnation

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

"At least 50 innocent civilians, excluding security forces, died because of them," he told a televised news conference.

Myanmar executes four democracy activists
This combination of file photos shows activist Kyaw Min Yu and former lawmaker Maung Kyaw. AFP

"How can you say this is not justice?" he asked. "Required actions are needed to be done in the required moments."

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

Myanmar's ruling junta has condemned foreign statements about the execution orders as "reckless and interfering".

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

Reuters

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