Democracy Activists on Death Row Deserve Execution: Myanmar Junta Press Chief

By The Irrawaddy 16 June 2022

The spokesperson for Myanmar’s military regime has reiterated that the death sentences handed down to democracy activists Ko Jimmy and Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw are irreversible and that the two men deserve them.

Earlier this month, the junta confirmed the execution orders for the men, who were sentenced to death in January by a military tribunal on terrorism charges. The regime has accused them of masterminding armed resistance against the junta in Yangon.

The execution orders have attracted local and international condemnation and appeals to halt them. 

On Tuesday, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called on the regime to refrain from such a regressive step, warning that going ahead with the country’s first judicial executions since 1990 would “violate the right to life”.

However, junta media chief Major General Zaw Min Tun said on Thursday that there was no prospect of the regime reversing the execution orders, when asked during a press conference about international appeals not to carry out the death sentences.

“We have to do it for the sake of rule of law. Their actions have killed more than 50 people who are not security forces. You can’t say the sentences [against them] are unjust,” he said. The missions run by the two men claimed to attack regime targets, including people working as junta informants.

Last week, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, one of coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing’s allies, urged the regime not to proceed with the executions as that would trigger a very strong negative reaction from the international community, while having a devastating effect on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Cambodia’s efforts to help Myanmar return to normalcy. However, the regime has dismissed Hun Sen’s appeal.

Since the confirmation of the execution orders, Zaw Min Tun has told the media that the executions will definitely happen and that there will be no mercy for Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw and Ko Jimmy. His statement on Thursday was the first official confirmation that the orders are irreversible.

Ko Jimmy is a veteran democracy activist who took part in the 1988 uprising against the then junta. Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw is an elected lawmaker from the ousted National League for Democracy government.

Last week, Ko Jimmy’s wife Ma Nilar Thein said that the regime will be held responsible for her husband’s death if his execution goes ahead. Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw’s wife Ma Thazin Nyunt Aung has urged the international community not to stand by and let the regime kill her husband.

A total of 114 people, two of them minors, have been sentenced to death by the regime since last year’s coup, including students and anti-junta activists.

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