Myanmar Military Executes Former Lawmaker, Three Democracy Activists: Report

New Delhi: Myanmar’s military junta has executed a democracy activist and lawmaker from National League for Democracy and two other men accused of a targeted killing after the country’s takeover by the military last year, reported news agency The Associated Press (AP). The executions were carried out despite several pleas for the four political prisoners from around the world including from United Nations experts and Cambodia, which holds the rotating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian nations. 

The four were executed “in accordance with legal procedures” for directing and organizing “violent and inhuman accomplice acts of terrorist killings,” the newspaper reported. It did not say when the four prisoners were hanged, the AP report stated quoting state-run Mirror Daily newspaper. 

A brief statement was issued by the military government about the executions, while the prison department where the four men were held refused to comment. 

Aung Myo Min, human rights minister for the National Unity Government, a shadow civilian administration established outside Myanmar after the military seized power in February 2021, rejected the allegations the men were involved in violence.

“Punishing them with death is a way to rule the public through fear,” he told the news agency. 

Among those executed was, Phyo Zeya Thaw, a musician turned former lawmaker from ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, also known as Maung Kyaw, who was convicted in January by a closed military court of offences involving explosives, bombings and financing terrorism.

Kyaw Min Yu, a 53-year-old democracy activist better known as Ko Jimmy, was also executed for violating the counterterrorism law. Yu was one of the leaders of the 88 Generation Students group, veterans of a failed 1988 popular uprising against military rule.

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 was a military informer, the report stated. 

The development comes just days after the International Court of Justice dismissed preliminary objections by Myanmar to a case alleging that the Southeast Asian nation is responsible for genocide against the Rohingya ethnic minority, 

Condemnation By International Organisations 

The executions were condemned by various international organisations even as a junta spokesman defended the act last month saying that it was used in many countries. 

Acting Asia director of Human Rights Watch, Elaine Pearson said that the legal proceedings against the four men had been “grossly unjust and politically motivated military trials.” “The junta’s barbarity and callous disregard for human life aims to chill the anti-coup protest movement,” she said following the announcement of the executions.

Thomas Andrews, an independent U.N.-appointed expert on human rights who had condemned the Myanmar military’s decision to go ahead with the executions when they were announced in June, called for a strong international response.

“I am outraged and devastated at the news of the junta’s execution of Myanmar patriots and champions of human rights and decency,” he said in a statement. “These individuals were tried, convicted and sentenced by a military tribunal without the right of appeal and reportedly without legal counsel, in violation of international human rights law.”

Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said that the executions, which go against Tokyo’s repeated urging for a peaceful resolution as well as its demands to free detainees, would further isolate Myanmar, reported news agency Reuters. 

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