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Myanmar Executes 4 Pro-Democracy Activists To Worldwide Outrage

BANGKOK (AP) Myanmars government confirmed Monday it had completed its first executions in nearly 50 years, hanging a former lawmaker, a democracy activist and two other political prisoners who was simply accused of a targeted killing following the countrys military takeover this past year.

The executions, first announced in the state-run Mirror Daily newspaper, were completed despite worldwide pleas for clemency for the four men, including from US experts and Cambodia, which holds the rotating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

There have been swift condemnations.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the executions, which mark an additional deterioration of the already dire human rights environment in Myanmar, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said, stressing the U.N. chiefs opposition to the death penalty.

The secretary-general reiterates his demand the immediate release of most arbitrarily detained prisoners, including President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, Haq said.

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said she was dismayed by this cruel and regressive step. She added: For the military to widen its killing is only going to deepen its entanglement in the crisis it has itself created.

Based on the newspaper, the four were executed relative to legal procedures for directing and organizing violent and inhuman accomplice acts of terrorist killings. It didn’t say if they were hanged.

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. Myanmar has carried out its first executions in nearly 50 years. Kyaw Min Yu, a 53-year-old democracy activist better known as Ko Jimmy, was executed for violating the counterterrorism law. (AP Photo/File)
FILE – Kyaw Min Yu, a pro-democracy activist foretells journalists as he finds Yangon airport welcomed by his wife Nilar Thein, background, also an activist and his daughter after released from the prison on Jan. 13, 2012, in Yangon. Myanmar has completed its first executions in nearly 50 years. Kyaw Min Yu, a 53-year-old democracy activist better referred to as Ko Jimmy, was executed for violating the counterterrorism law. (AP Photo/File)

via Associated Press

The military government later issued a short statement concerning the executions, as the prison where in fact the men have been held and the prison department refused comment.

Aung Myo Min, human rights minister for the National Unity Government, a shadow civilian administration established outside Myanmar following the military seized power in February 2021, rejected the allegations the men were involved with violence.

Punishing them with death is really a solution to rule the general public through fear, he told The Associated Press.

The type of executed was Phyo Zeya Thaw, a former lawmaker from ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyis National League for Democracy party. Also referred to as Maung Kyaw, he was convicted in January by way of a closed military court of offenses involving possession of explosives, bombings and financing terrorism.

His wife, Thazin Nyunt Aung, told AP the planet needs to contain the military in charge of the executions. They need to pay, she said.

EUROPE, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, UK and USA issued a joint statement condemning the executions. The Myanmar military regimes executions of pro-democracy and opposition leaders are reprehensible acts of violence that further exemplify the regimes disregard for human rights and the rule of law, they said.

In China, a longtime ally of Myanmars military, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian refused to touch upon the executions, saying Beijing always upholds the principle of non-interference far away internal affairs.

Phyo Zeya Thaw, 41, was arrested last November predicated on information from people detained for shooting security personnel, state media said at that time. He was accused to be an integral figure in a network that completed what the military referred to as terrorist attacks in Yangon, the countrys biggest city.

Phyo Zeya Thaw, a lawmaker of Myanmar's National League for Democracy, arrives at the Myanmar parliament in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, on Aug. 19, 2015. A Myanmar military spokesperson announced on June 3, 2022, that Phyo Zeya Thaw, a 41-year-old 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, a lawmaker of Myanmar’s National League for Democracy, finds the Myanmar parliament in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, on Aug. 19, 2015. A Myanmar military spokesperson announced on June 3, 2022, that Phyo Zeya Thaw, a 41-year-old former lawmaker from ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyis party, and Kyaw Min Yu, a veteran pro-democracy activist better referred to as Ko Jimmy, will be executed for violating the countrys counterterrorism law.(AP Photo)

via Associated Press

Phyo Zeya Thaw have been a hip-hop musician before signing up for the Generation Wave political movement formed in 2007. He was jailed in 2008 under a previous military government after being accused of illegal association and possession of forex.

Also executed was Kyaw Min Yu, a 53-year-old democracy activist better referred to as Ko Jimmy, for violating the counterterrorism law. He was among the leaders of the 88 Generation Students Group, veterans of a failed 1988 popular uprising against military rule.

He already had spent greater than a dozen years behind bars for political activism before his arrest in Yangon last October. He previously been placed on a wanted list for social media marketing postings that allegedly incited unrest, and state media said he was accused of terrorist acts including mine attacks and of heading an organization called Moon Light Operation to handle urban guerrilla attacks.

Another two, Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw, were convicted of torturing and killing a female in March 2021 who they allegedly believed was a military informer.

Elaine Pearson, acting Asia director of Human Rights Watch, called the military trials of the four politically motivated. The juntas barbarity and callous disregard for human life aims to chill the anti-coup protest movement, she said.

Thomas Andrews, an unbiased U.N.-appointed expert on human rights, needed a solid international response.

I’m outraged and devastated at the news headlines of the juntas execution of Myanmar patriots and champions of human rights and decency, he said in a statement. They were tried, convicted and sentenced by way of a military tribunal minus the right of appeal and reportedly without lawyer, in violation of international human rights law.

Myanmars Foreign Ministry had rejected the wave of criticism that followed its announcement in June, declaring that its judicial system is fair and that Phyo Zeya Thaw and Kyaw Min Yu were shown to be masterminds of orchestrating full-scale terrorist attacks against innocent civilians to instill fear and disrupt peace and stability.

They killed at the very least 50 people, military spokesperson Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun said at a televised news conference last month. He said your choice to hold the prisoners conformed with the rule of law and the reason was to avoid similar incidents later on.

The militarys seizure of power from Suu Kyis elected government triggered peaceful protests that soon escalated to armed resistance and to widespread fighting that some U.N. experts characterize as a civil war.

Some resistance groups have engaged in assassinations, drive-by shootings and bombings in cities. Mainstream opposition organizations generally disavow such activities, while supporting armed resistance in rural areas which are more often at the mercy of brutal military attacks.

The final judicial execution to be completed in Myanmar is normally believed to have already been of another political offender, student leader Salai Tin Maung Oo, in 1976 under a previous military government led by dictator Ne Win.

In 2014, the sentences of prisoners on death row were commuted alive imprisonment, but several dozen convicts received death sentences between then and last years takeover.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a non-governmental organization that tracks killing and arrests, said Friday that 2,114 civilians have already been killed by security forces because the military takeover. It said 115 other folks have been sentenced to death.

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