Myanmar executes four democracy activists: State media

Reported executions mark first use of capital punishment in the Southeast Asian country since the 1980s.

Myanmar’s military government has executed four democracy activists, according to state media, making the first use of capital punishment in the Southeast Asian country in decades.

The four men, including a former legislator from Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, were executed over their involvement in organising “brutal and inhumane terror acts”, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported on Monday.

The men were sentenced to death in a closed-door trial in January after being accused of helping militias to fight the military, which seized power in a coup in February 2021, under the direction of senior general Min Aung Hlaing.

Phyo Zeya Thaw, a former legislator from Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), and prominent democracy activist Kyaw Min Yu were found guilty of offenses under anti-terrorism laws.

The two other men, Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw, were handed the death penalty for allegedly killing a woman they accused of being an informant for the military government in Yangon.

The death sentences had received condemnation from the United Nations, the United States, France and human rights groups.

The government defended the planned executions as lawful and necessary.

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

Executions in Myanmar have previously been carried out by hanging.

‘Brazen act of cruelty’

Yadanar Maung, a spokesperson for Justice For Myanmar, said the executions amounted to crimes against humanity and called for further sanctions against the military government.

“All perpetrators from Min Aung Hlaing down must be held accountable for this brazen act of cruelty,” Maung told Al Jazeera.

“The international community must act now to end the terrorist junta’s total impunity. The international response to these executions and the junta’s other international crimes must involve coordinated targeted sanctions against the junta and its business interests, a ban on jet fuel and a global arms embargo. Sanctions must be imposed on Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise, to stop oil and gas funds bankrolling the junta’s atrocities.”

A military spokesperson did not answer calls seeking comment.

Myanmar has been racked by conflict since last year’s coup, with violence spreading across the country after the army crushed mostly peaceful protests in cities.

More than 2,100 people have been killed by the security forces since the coup, according to the AAPP. The government has said that figure is exaggerated.

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