‘Vile’: Democracy activists killed in Myanmar’s first executions in decades


Myanmar’s military authorities have executed four democracy activists accused of helping carry out “terror acts”, state media has reported.

The four were sentenced to death in January in a closed-doors trial, accused of helping militias to fight the army that seized power in a coup last year.

The executions mark the first carried out in decades in the Southeast Asian country and received international condemnation with two UN experts calling them a “vile attempt at instilling fear” among the people.

The executed men included democracy-figure Kyaw Min Yu, better known as Jimmy, and former politician and hip-hop artist Phyo Zeya Thaw, the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.

FILE - Kyaw Min Yu, a pro-democracy activist talks to journalists as he arrives at Yangon airport welcomed by his wife Nilar Thein, background, also an activist and his daughter after being released from a prison on Jan. 13, 2012, in Yangon.  A Myanmar military spokesperson announced on June 3, 2022, that Kyaw Min Yu, a veteran pro-democracy activist better known as Ko Jimmy, and Phyo Zeya Thaw, a former lawmaker from ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi...s party, would be executed for violating the country...s counterterrorism law. (AP Photo/File)
Kyaw Min Yu. Pic: Associated Press

Kyaw Min Yu, 53, and Phyo Zeya Thaw, a 41-year-old ally of ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, lost their appeals in June.

The other two executed men were Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw.

The newspaper said the four had been charged under the counter-terrorism law and the punishment had been “conducted under prison procedures”.

More on Myanmar

Lawmaker Phyo Zeya Thaw, left, talks with Myanmar' Leader Aung San Suu Kyi, right, of Myanmar's National League for Democracy, as they leave after the Myanmar parliament in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, on April 9, 2015.  A Myanmar military spokesperson announced on June 3, 2022, that Phyo Zeya Thaw, a former lawmaker from ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi...s party, and Kyaw Min Yu, a veteran pro-democracy activist better known as Ko Jimmy, would be executed for violating the country...s counterterrorism law. (AP Photo)
Phyo Zeya Thaw with then Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Pic: Associated Press

Burma Campaign UK said it was “deeply saddened” to learn of the news.

“This is a desperately sad day for family and friends of those executed,” said Wai Hnin Pwint Thon, senior advocacy officer at the campaign organisation.

“I have known Ko Jimmy my whole life, he was an inspiration to me. He dedicated his life to freedom and democracy for the people of Burma.”

Amnesty International’s regional director Erwin van der Borght, said: “These executions amount to arbitrary deprivation of lives and are another example of Myanmar’s atrocious human rights record.

“The four men were convicted by a military court in highly secretive and deeply unfair trials.

“The international community must act immediately as more than 100 people are believed to be on death row after being convicted in similar proceedings.”

Executions in Myanmar have previously been carried out by hanging.

The Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (AAPP), an activist group, said the last judicial executions in Myanmar took place in the late 1980s.

Thazin Nyunt Aung, the wife of Phyo Zeyar Thaw, said she had not been informed of her husband’s execution.

The decision to carry out the executions drew widespread international concern and protest, including a letter from Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Hun Sen is currently the chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN, and is leading the group’s efforts to try to resolve the crisis in Myanmar. His letter was unusual because Southeast Asian governments rarely issue statements that could be considered critical of each other’s internal affairs.

Myanmar has been in chaos since last year’s coup. The military overthrew Ms Suu Kyi’s elected government in February 2021, after her party’s second successive landslide victory at the polls.

In Myanmar jungle, civilians prepare to battle military rulers. A 34-year-old former fitness trainer and member of the People's Defence Force (PDF) gets a military-style haircut at a training camp in an area controlled by ethnic Karen rebels, Karen State, Myanmar, September 11, 2021. REUTERS/Independent photographer/File Photo
In Myanmar jungle, civilians prepare to battle unpopular military rulers

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Many democratically elected politicians including, Ms Suu Kyi, and President U Win Myint were detained.

Others fled or were forced into hiding.

The military regime said concerns of widespread electoral fraud in the 2020 vote was the reason it needed to take power and declare a state of emergency.

The AAPP says more than 2,100 people have been killed by the security forces since the coup, a figure the junta says is exaggerated.

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