Former lawmaker and 3 other political prisoners hanged in Myanmar

BANGKOK (AP) — Myanmar’s government confirmed Monday that it has carried out its first execution in nearly 50 years, carrying out a former lawmaker, a democracy activist and two other political prisoners who But there was an allegation of target killing after the army took over the country last year.

The executions, first announced in the state-run Mirror Daily newspaper, came despite calls for clemency from around the world for the four, including UN experts and Cambodia’s rotating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Implemented.

The newspaper reported that the four were executed “according to legal procedures” for “directing and organizing the acts of violent and inhumane accomplices of terrorist murder”. It did not say when they were executed.

The military government later issued a brief statement about the executions, while the prison where the men were held and the prisons department declined to comment.

Aung Myo Min, the human rights minister of the National Unity Government, rejected allegations that the men were involved in violence after the military seized power in February 2021 and a shadow civilian administration based out of Myanmar.

“Sentencing them to death is a way to rule the people through fear,” he told The Associated Press.

Among those executed was Phao Zia Thaw, a former lawmaker from ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party. Also known as Mong Kyaw, he was convicted by a closed military court in January of possession of explosives, bombings and terrorist financing.

The world needs to hold the military accountable for the executions, his wife, Thazen Nyunt Aung, told the AP. “They have to pay,” he said.

The US Embassy in Myanmar said it mourned the loss of the four men and expressed condolences to their families, rejecting the decision to execute them.

“We condemn the military regime’s execution of pro-democracy leaders and elected officials for exercising their fundamental freedoms,” the embassy said.

In China, a longtime ally of Myanmar’s military, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian declined to comment on the executions, saying Beijing “always upholds the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.”

State media said at the time that Phyo Zeya Thaw, 41, was arrested based on information from people detained last November for shooting security personnel. He was also accused of being a key figure in a network that carried out terrorist attacks in Yangon, the country’s largest city, by the military.

Phyo Zeya Thaw was a hip-hop musician before becoming a member of the Generation Wave political movement formed in 2007. He was jailed in 2008 after being accused of having an illicit relationship and holding foreign currency during the former military regime.

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

He spent more than a dozen years behind bars for political activism before his arrest in Yangon last October. He was put on a wanted list for social media postings that allegedly incited unrest, and state media said he was wanted for terrorist acts, including landmine attacks and civilian guerrilla attacks, in Operation Moonlight. He is accused of being the head of the named group.

The other two, Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw, were convicted in March 2021 of torturing and killing a woman they believed was a military informant.

Elaine Pearson, acting Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said the prosecution of the four was a “grossly unfair and politically motivated military trial”.

“The junta’s brutality and indifference to human life is aimed at silencing the anti-coup protest movement,” he said after the executions were announced.

Thomas Andrews, an independent UN human rights expert who condemned the decision to carry out the death penalty in June, called for a strong international response.

“I am saddened and devastated by 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 military tribunals without the right of appeal and allegedly without legal counsel, in violation of international human rights law.”

Myanmar’s foreign ministry dismissed the wave of criticism that followed its announcement in June, declaring that its judicial system was fair and that Phyo Zeya Thaw and Kyaw Min Yu had “massively committed crimes against innocent civilians”. have proven to be masterminds in orchestrating terrorist attacks. creating fear and disrupting peace and stability.”

“They killed at least 50 people,” military spokesman Maj. Gen. Zhao Mintun said at a televised news conference last month. He said that the decision to execute the prisoners was in accordance with the rule of law and aimed at preventing such incidents in future.

The military’s seizure of power from Suu Kyi’s elected government sparked peaceful protests that soon turned into armed resistance and then into full-scale fighting that some UN experts call a civil war.

Some resistance groups are involved in killings, shootings and bombings in urban areas. Mainstream opposition organizations generally deny such activities, while supporting armed resistance in rural areas that are often subject to brutal military attacks.

The last judicial execution carried out in Myanmar was that of another political criminal, student leader Salai Tin Mong Oo, in 1976 under the former military government led by dictator Ni Win.

In 2014, death row inmates’ sentences were commuted to life imprisonment, but between then and last year’s takeover, several dozen convicts were sentenced to death.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a non-governmental organization that tracks killings and arrests, said on Friday that 2,114 civilians had been killed by security forces since the army took over. It said 115 others were sentenced to death.

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