Burma

Myanmar Junta Rejects Cambodia’s Plea not to Execute Activists

By The Irrawaddy 13 June 2022

In a demonstration of its determination to execute two democracy activists on death row, Myanmar’s military regime has turned down their ally’s request to refrain from carrying out the death sentences.

On Friday, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen sent a letter to junta chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing urging him “to reconsider” and “refrain” from executing ousted National League for Democracy lawmaker Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw and veteran democracy activist Ko Jimmy. Hun Sen said the proposed executions were attracting “great concern among the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its external partners.”

However, the junta’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs replied to Cambodia on Saturday with legal explanations on why the death sentences have to be carried out, as well as detailing the alleged crimes committed by Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw and Ko Jimmy, BBC Burmese reported.

Cambodia is the current chair of ASEAN and Myanmar is a member of the bloc, although it has been excluded from recent meetings for failing to adhere to ASEAN’s plan to resolve the crisis in the country. Hun Sen is close to Min Aung Hlaing and is the only foreign prime minister to have met the junta chief in person while others, even some ASEAN members, shun the regime chief for his coup.

In his letter to Min Aung Hlaing, Hun Sen said the planned executions, if carried out, will trigger very strong and widespread negative reaction from the international community, while having a devastating effect on ASEAN and Cambodia’s efforts to help Myanmar return to normalcy.

“I would like to earnestly request you and the State Administrative Council [SAC – the regime’s governing body] to reconsider the sentences and refrain from carrying out the death sentences given to those anti-SAC individuals,” wrote Hun Sen.

A junta military tribunal handed down death sentences to Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw and Ko Jimmy in January on terrorism charges after accusing them of masterminding armed resistance against the regime in Yangon.

Earlier this month, the regime spokesperson confirmed that the pair would be executed along with Ko Hla Myo Aung and Ko Aung Thura Zaw, who were earlier sentenced to death for killing a woman who was an alleged military informant.

If the hangings are carried out, they will be the first executions to take place in Myanmar since 1976.

The international community has already condemned the proposed executions. The spokesperson for the United Nations Secretary-General said it was a “blatant violation of the right to life, liberty and security of persons”, referring to an article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. France’s embassy in Yangon also denounced the plan by calling the junta an “illegitimate military government”, prompting the regime to warn France that it was threatening bilateral ties.

Ma Nilar Thein, the wife of Ko Jimmy, said the junta has to be held responsible for its blatant violations of human rights. Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw’s wife Ma Thazin Nyunt Aung urged the international community not to stand by and let the regime kill her husband.

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

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