New York: Myanmar’s ruling military announced it had executed four democracy activists accused of aiding “terror acts”, sparking widespread condemnation of the country’s first executions in decades.
Sentenced to death in secretive trials in January and April, the men were accused of helping a civilian resistance movement that has fought the military since last year’s coup and bloody crackdown on nationwide protests.
Among those executed were democracy campaigner Kyaw Min Yu, better known as Jimmy, and former lawmaker and hip-hop artist Phyo Zeya Thaw, an ally of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The two others executed were Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw.
State media said “the punishment has been conducted”, but did not say when, or by what method. Previous executions in Myanmar have been by hanging.
Myanmar has been in chaos since the Feb 1, 2021 coup, with the military, which has ruled the former British colony for five of the past six decades, engaged in battles on multiple fronts with newly formed militia groups.
United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called the executions a “cruel and regressive step.” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the executions and called again for the release of all arbitrarily detained prisoners, including Suu Kyi.
In a joint statement, the European Union, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Britain, and the United States described the executions as “reprehensible acts of violence that further exemplify the regime’s disregard for human rights and the rule of law.”
Amnesty International’s death penalty adviser, Chiara Sangiorgio, said the executions were “an enormous setback” and that the junta is “not going to stop there.”
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which has been tracking arrests, killings, and court verdicts in Myanmar, says more than 2,100 people have been killed by security forces since the coup. The junta says that figure is exaggerated.