YANGON, July 25 (AFP, Reuters): Myanmar’s junta has executed four prisoners including a former lawmaker from Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, state media said on Monday.
It is the country’s first use of capital punishment in decades.
The four, who included another prominent democracy activist, were executed for leading “brutal and inhumane terror acts”, the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.
The paper said the executions were carried out “under the prison’s procedure” without saying when or how the four men were killed.
Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG), a shadow administration outlawed by the ruling military junta, condemned the reported executions.
“Extremely saddened…condem the junta’s cruelty with strongest terms if it’s the case,” the NUG president’s office spokesman Kyaw Zaw told Reuters via message.
“The global community must punish their cruelty.”
The junta has sentenced dozens of anti-coup activists to death as part of its crackdown on dissent after seizing power last year.
But Myanmar has not carried out an execution for decades.
Phyo Zeya Thaw, a former lawmaker from Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) who was arrested in November, was sentenced to death in January for offences under anti-terrorism laws.
Prominent democracy activist Kyaw Min Yu – better known as “Jimmy” – received the same sentence from the military tribunal.
The two other men are sentenced to death for killing a woman they alleged was an informer for the junta in Yangon.
Last month military 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.
“How can you say this is not justice?” he asked. “Required actions are needed to be done in the required moments.”
The junta was heavily criticised by international powers when they announced last month their intention to carry out the executions.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the junta’s decision, calling it “a blatant violation to the right to life, liberty and security of person”.
Phyo Zeya Thaw had been accused of orchestrating several attacks on regime forces, including a gun attack on a commuter train in Yangon in August that killed five policemen.
A hip-hop pioneer whose subversive rhymes irked the previous junta, he was jailed in 2008 for membership in an illegal organisation and possession of foreign currency.
He was elected to parliament representing Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD in the 2015 elections, which ushered in a transition to civilian rule.
The country’s military alleged voter fraud during elections in 2020 – which the NLD won by a landslide – as justification for its coup on Feb 1 last year.
Suu Kyi has been detained since then and faces a slew of charges in a junta court that could see her face a prison sentence of more than 150 years.
Kyaw Min Yu, who rose to prominence during Myanmar’s 1988 student uprising against the country’s previous military regime, was arrested in an overnight raid in October.
Myanmar has been in chaos since last year’s coup, with conflict spreading nationwide after the army crushed mostly peaceful protests in cities.
The AAPP says more than 2,100 people have been killed by the security forces since the coup, but the junta says the figure is exaggerated.
The true picture of violence has been hard to assess as clashes have spread to more remote areas where ethnic minority insurgent groups are also fighting the military.
The latest executions close off any chance of ending the unrest, said Myanmar analyst Richard Horsey, of the International CRISIS group.
“Any possibility of dialogue to end the crisis created by the coup has now been removed,” Horsey told Reuters.
“This is the regime demonstrating that it will do what it wants and listen to no one. It sees this as a demonstration of strength, but it may be a serious miscalculation.”-AFP/Reuters