Myanmar carries out first executions in 30 years, sparks global outrage

Former deputy Phyo Zeya Thaw was a prisoner sentenced to the death penalty Photo: STRINGER / EPA

The military junta that governs Myanmar (formerly Burma) had four prisoners executed since the end of last year. The application of the death penalty for the first time in more than 30 years in the country generates a shock wave in the international community.

The warning was left at the beginning of June: the military junta of Myanmar (formerly Burma), in power since February 1, 2021, informed that capital punishment would be in force again in the country and, this Monday, fulfilled the promise. while executing four prisoners.

After more than 30 years, the death penalty has returned to shadow the country. The first victims were executed by hanging, but the military authorities did not specify when the penalties were applied.

Former deputy Phyo Zeya Thaw of the National League for Democracy and activist Kyaw Min Yu, also known as Ko Jimmy, are two of those executed, having been convicted in January on terrorism charges following activities against the military junta. The other two are Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw, accused of killing a woman for allegedly being an informant for the military. The decision generated a wave of outrage among the international community.

More than 100 people on death row

For António Guterres, Secretary-General of the UN, the executions announced this Monday represent a “blatant violation of the right to life”. United Nations Special Rapporteur Thomas Andrews said he was “outraged and devastated” by the news. “My heart goes out to the families, friends and loved ones and indeed all the people in Myanmar who are victims of the growing atrocities of the military junta,” he lamented.

For his part, Amnesty International (AI) regional official, Erwin Van Der Borght, stressed that “the four men were convicted by a court in secret and unfair trials. The international community must act more quickly, as there will be more than 100 people on death row after being convicted of crimes of this kind,” he said. According to AI, the last execution in Burma took place in 1988, under the former military junta that ruled the country from 1962 to 2011.

Human Rights Watch added that the execution by Myanmar’s military junta of four prisoners is “an act of the utmost cruelty” and made a worldwide appeal: “The European Union, the United States and other governments must show the junta that it will be held accountable for its crimes,” said the NGO’s Asia director.

From a distance, Aung Myo Min, Minister of Human Rights of the National Unity Government of Myanmar (NUG), formed in exile by elected politicians, expressed concern about what is happening in the country. “What else do we need to prove how cruel Myanmar’s murderous military is?” he asked.

The United States and Japan also condemned the execution of the four prisoners.

“We condemn the execution carried out by the military regime against pro-democracy leaders and elected officials solely for exercising their fundamental freedoms,” the US embassy in Yangon wrote on Twitter.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi stressed that “Japan seriously deplores these actions as they are completely contrary to the release of detainees, which we have constantly demanded”.

No access to legal advice

Phyo Zeya Thaw was arrested in November last year when about a hundred police and military officers stormed a housing complex in Yangon. Before becoming an activist and fighting for political and human rights, Thaw was a rap songwriter. In 2000, he elevated this musical style in the country by releasing the first rap album in Myanmar, following the founding of the band Acid. The lyrics he composed are shaped by criticisms aimed at the military regime and have spurred many young people to oppose the current government, which also led to his arrest.

Kyaw Min Yu, in turn, was arrested in a military operation in October 2021. The leader of the Generation 88 Student Group, one of the faces of the political struggle in Myanmar, has spearheaded several pro-democracy uprisings against the military and had already was arrested in 1988 for his role in the protests. He was released in 2005 but was re-arrested from 2007 to 2012.

A source close to Kyaw Min Yu’s family said the warden at Insein Prison in Yangon confirmed that the activist was executed, but did not elaborate on when. The same source also indicated that the families of prisoners sentenced to death went to the prison to collect the bodies of the relatives, however, they were prevented by the judicial authorities, claiming that this procedure is only allowed if there is a reason. Special.

Over the past few months, the four men have tried to appeal for his release, but the sentences were upheld in June. They were also denied access to legal advice during the appeal review process, which violates the principles of international law.

After it became public that the four men were executed, a wave of fear invaded the country, but the feeling of revenge also grows. A banner was hung on a bridge in the city of Yangon with a message to the military that make up the junta: “Prepare to pay a blood debt”, it can be read, according to the translations of international newspapers.

Since the military uprising, 113 people have been sentenced to death in a country that had not revoked the sentence, but where convicts had their sentences exchanged for time in prison, following the traditional pardons granted by the authorities on special dates.

The coup plunged Myanmar into a deep political, social and economic crisis, and unleashed a spiral of violence with new civilian militias.

Source: With Agencies

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