Leading anti-regime forces have strongly denounced the Myanmar junta’s recent announcement that it will proceed with the executions of four men including a former lawmaker from ousted State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s party and a veteran democracy activist.
The National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC)—a coalition of elected lawmakers, ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) and pro-democracy activists—and the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH)—a group of elected lawmakers who were prevented from taking their seats in Parliament by the February 2021 coup, said in separate statements that the junta’s order approving the executions of four anti-regime activists was a blatant violation of Myanmar’s existing laws as well as international conventions and laws.
Both pledged to hold those involved in the junta’s lawless plan fully accountable.
The junta said last week it had issued orders to prison authorities to carry out the death sentences handed down to former MP and hip-hop pioneer Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw and democracy activist Ko Jimmy, also known as Kyaw Min Yu, a leading member of the 88 Generation Students Group.
The regime’s spokesman said the junta-controlled judiciary had already rejected appeals against the death sentences by the two men. With all avenues for appeal thus exhausted, they would be hanged soon according to prison procedures, he said. The announcement has drawn ire from local and international rights groups and governments, which called on the regime to reverse the order and release the men.
The two were arrested late last year in their hideouts in Yangon and were given death sentences on terrorism charges in January by a military tribunal for masterminding armed resistance operations in Yangon. The two other men whose executions were approved are Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw, who were earlier sentenced to death for killing a woman who was an alleged military informant.
If the executions go ahead, Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw and Ko Jimmy will be the first political dissidents to be put to death in the country in nearly four decades.
In its statement, the CRPH described the junta’s death sentences and approval of the executions as inhumane.
“All those extrajudicial acts by the illegal terrorist regime are aimed at instilling fear in people who continue to oppose its rule,” it said, adding that it would work together with local and international organizations to make sure that all those involved in the executions are subject to effective legal action.
The NUCC said in its statement that it will continue to work with pro-democracy forces to abolish the death penalty in Myanmar as well as to take action against the regime for its grave human rights violations, war crimes and genocidal killings of civilians.
A total of 114 prisoners including students and anti-coup activists—two of whom are minors—have been condemned to death since the coup. Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw, Ko Jimmy, Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw are the first to have their sentences approved. The condemned prisoners were subjected to unfair trials, and denied their legal rights to counsel and to defend themselves, for their roles in the revolutionary movement against the junta.
“The ‘death sentences’ in this case are mere contrived legal cover for all the acts of violence that are fundamentally legally defined human rights atrocities. There is no amount of legal gloss that can justify the acts of the junta, which could more accurately be described as an armed criminal gang employing terrorist-style tactics,” Marzuki Darusman of the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M), an independent group of prominent former UN human rights experts, said in a statement.
SAC-M’s Yanghee Lee, a former UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said carrying out the sentences would amount to summary executions. She called on the global community to take a stand and put political pressure on the regime to halt the announced executions.
The leaders of the Myanmar military and those who carry out their orders, including judges, should be investigated and prosecuted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in international courts, the group said.