The Burmese junta killed four people including two opposition figures

Burmese writer and army opponent Kyaw Min Yu (C), known as Jimmy, on January 13, 2012 in Yangon (Soe Than WIN / AFP/Archives)

Myanmar’s junta has executed four prisoners, including a former pro-democracy lawmaker from Aung San Suu Kyi’s party and a prominent opponent, state media said on Monday, the first application of the sentence to death in Myanmar for more than three decades.

The four were convicted of “brutal and inhumane acts of terrorism” and the executions followed “prison procedures”, Myanmar’s state-run Global New Light said, without specifying how or when they were carried out. .

A junta spokesman did not respond to requests from AFP.

Since the military coup on February 1, 2021, dozens of opponents of the junta have been sentenced to death, but no executions have taken place so far. These killings provoked strong condemnations around the world, the head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken criticizing in particular “the regime’s complete disregard for human rights and the rule of law”.

Undated photos of Burmese junta opponents Kyaw Min Yu and Phyo Zeya Thaw, released by the Burmese army on January 21, 2022
Undated photos of Myanmar opponents killed by the junta Kyaw Min Yu and Phyo Zeya Thaw released by the Myanmar military on January 21, 2022 (Handout/Myanmar’s Military Information Team/AFP/Archives)

Phyo Zeya Thaw, 41, a former member of the National League for Democracy (NLD), was arrested in November and convicted in January of violating the anti-terrorism law.

This pioneer of hip-hop in Burma, whose lyrics criticized the army in the early 2000s, experienced imprisonment in 2008 for belonging to an illegal organization and possession of foreign currency.

He won the seat as a deputy in the 2015 elections, during the transition period that began between military power and a civilian government.

The junta has accused him of orchestrating several attacks against the regime, including an attack on a train in which five policemen were killed in August in Yangon.

Kyaw Min Yu, 53, known as “Jimmy”, is a writer and longtime opponent of the military, best known for his role in the 1988 student uprising against the then junta. He was arrested in October and convicted in January.

“Unclear sins”

According to local media, family members of the two men gathered outside Yangon’s Insein prison, where they are being held, in the hope that their bodies will be recovered.

Members of the Burmese security forces, July 19, 2022 in Yangon
Members of the Burmese security forces on July 19, 2022 in Yangon (STR / AFP/Archives)

The other two prisoners killed were two men accused of killing a woman they suspected of being a junta informant.

The junta announced last month that it intended to carry out the executions, despite warnings from the international community.

The last execution in Burma began in 1988, according to a report by United Nations experts in June, which counted 114 death sentences since the coup.

These experts warned that the executions could be accelerated due to the lack of reaction from the international community.

“Bad Deeds”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called the move ordered by the junta “brutal and regressive”. “I am shocked that despite calls from around the world, the military carries out these executions without regard for human rights,” said Michelle Bachelet. For the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Gutteres, these killings “mark a new deterioration in the human rights situation, which is already damaging this country”.

France condemned “a major retreat and a new phase of escalation of atrocities committed by the Burmese junta since the coup”.

These killings “are despicable acts of violence that once again illustrate the regime’s rejection of human rights and the rule of law”, condemned, in a joint statement, the head of EU diplomacy Josep Borrell. , US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and the foreign ministers of many other countries, including the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia and Canada.

“In addition to countless atrocities against the Burmese people, the military junta has committed another terrible crime (…) ignoring the demands of the international community and those who demand justice”, the reaction of Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, was “devastated” by the news.

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Police patrol the streets of Yangon on July 19, 2022 in Myanmar.
Police patrol the streets of Yangon on July 19, 2022 in Burma (STR/AFP/Archives)

“These killings … are another example of Burma’s brutal human rights record … The military will continue to trample on people’s lives until they are held accountable,” he said. .

These killings risk increasing the international isolation of the Burmese military, which took power by force on February 1, 2021 under the pretext of alleged fraud in last year’s election, which the NLD won overwhelmingly.

The junta has continued a bloody crackdown, with more than 2,000 civilians killed and more than 15,000 arrested since the coup, according to a local NGO.

Among those arrested is former leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, 77, who faces multiple charges that could bring her up to 150 years in prison in total. The UN Secretary General reiterated his call for the “immediate release of all those arbitrarily detained, including President Win Myint and Aung San Suu Kyi”.

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