Myanmar’s military junta has executed two prominent pro-democracy activists and two other men accused of terrorism, state media reported on Monday, following a trial condemned by the UN and rights groups.
Veteran democracy activist Kyaw Min Yu, better known as Ko Jimmy, and former National League for Democracy MP Phyo Zayar Thaw were executed, along with Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw, reported the Global New Light of Myanmar, without giving a date.
Their deaths mark the first judicial executions in the country in decades, and human rights groups fear others will follow. According to Human Rights Watch, 114 people have been sentenced to death in Myanmar since the military seized power in a coup in February 2021.
Ko Jimmy and Phyo Zayar Thaw have been accused by the army of being “involved in terrorist acts such as bombings, killing civilians as informants”, the spokesman said. Zaw Min Tun junta. previously told CNN. They were sentenced to death in January 2022 and last month Zaw Min Tun confirmed that their appeals had been dismissed.
Civil cases have been tried in military courts with proceedings closed to the public since the military seized power last year, toppling the elected government and reversing nearly a decade of attempts at democratic reform.
Rights groups say these secret military courts frustrate the possibility of a fair trial and are designed for quick — and almost certain — convictions regardless of the evidence.
The UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, said in a statement On Monday, he was “outraged and devastated” by the executions.
“My heart goes out to their families, friends and loved ones and indeed to all the people of Myanmar who are victims of the growing atrocities of the junta,” he said. “These individuals were tried, convicted and sentenced by a military tribunal without the right of appeal and apparently without a lawyer, in violation of international human rights law.”
Manny Maung, Myanmar researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement in June: “Myanmar’s military courts’ disregard for basic rights was evident in the farcical trials and death sentences of Phyo Zayar Thaw and Ko Jimmy. .
“These secret courts with their flash convictions are intended to cool any dissent against the military junta,” the statement said.
A spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres earlier said the UN was “deeply troubled” by the decision to execute the men, calling it a “flagrant violation of the right to life, liberty and security of person”, referring to an article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Amnesty International said it had recorded an “alarming” increase in the number of death sentences in the country since the takeover which it said was aimed at “sowing fear”.
“The death sentence has become one of many appalling means used by the Burmese military to strike fear among all those who oppose its rule, and would aggravate serious human rights violations, including deadly violence aimed at peaceful protesters and other civilians,” the organization said. said on Twitter in June.
A 2021 Amnesty report says the last known judicial execution in Myanmar was in 1988. There have been numerous death sentences in the country since then, but they have generally been “commuted by massive pardons”, Amnesty said. .
CNN was unable to independently verify when the last state execution took place in Myanmar.
Phyo Zayar Thaw, 41, was previously a deputy in Myanmar’s lower house of parliament for the then-ruling National League for Democracy, the party of ousted state councilor Aung San Suu Kyi.
Before becoming a politician, Phyo Zayar Thaw was a popular hip hop artist and a founding member of pro-democracy youth organization Generation Wave. He was imprisoned in 2008 by the former military regime for his activism.
In November 2021, Phyo Zayar Thaw was arrested during a raid on an apartment complex in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon. He was accused of planning attacks on junta targets and charged under the Anti-Terrorism Law and the Public Property Protection Law, according to local media.
Ko Jimmy became a prominent student activist in Myanmar during the mass popular uprising against then-military rule in 1988. He spent around 15 years behind bars for his activism and involvement in the 8888 protests and the Saffron Revolution. of 2007.
According to local media, Ko Jimmy was arrested in October 2021, accused of organizing guerrilla attacks against junta targets and charged with treason and terrorism offences. He was also wanted by the regime for allegedly inciting unrest over social media posts critical of the coup.
Since taking power, the military junta led by Min Aung Hlaing has embarked on a bloody crackdown on any opposition to his power. Nearly 15,000 people were arrested and more than 2,000 killed by military forces during this period, according to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners.
The military has been accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes by the US, UN and other international bodies as it attempts to exert control over the people, who continue to lead a campaign of mass resistance.