‘No Mercy’ for Democracy Activists Sentenced to Hang, Myanmar Junta Says

By The Irrawaddy 9 June 2022

Myanmar’s junta has vowed to carry out the death sentences of leading activists Ko Jimmy and Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw, despite widespread condemnation of the decision, both internationally and locally.

The United Nations and a number of countries and other world organizations has joined local groups in condemning the junta’s recent announcement that it had approved death sentences handed to four anti-regime activists—including veteran democracy activist Ko Jimmy (aka Kyaw Min Yu) and Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw, a former lawmaker from ousted State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s party—and called on the junta to reverse the order. 

Amid the condemnations, junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun said the activists would definitely be executed, in a follow-up report by Radio Free Asia published on Tuesday, three days after the order was confirmed.

“It [the executions] will definitely carry on. There won’t be mercy [for those sentenced to death]. They have finished the appeal process,” the spokesman responded when asked whether junta chief Min Aung Hlaing would consider issuing a stay of execution.

The junta on Wednesday night also aired details of how the pair came to be convicted and sentenced to death for their anti-regime activities, in a move apparently aimed at winning public support for the executions.

After being arrested in townships in which the junta has declared martial law, Ko Jimmy and Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw were sentenced to death on terrorism charges in January by a military tribunal for masterminding armed resistance operations in Yangon. 

In imposing martial law, the junta transferred all executive and judicial authority to the head of the relevant regional military command, meaning appeals to reverse the death sentences can only be made to junta chief Min Aung Hlaing.

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.

A total of 114 prisoners have been sentenced to death since the coup, including students and anti-coup activists—two of them minors. Of the 114, the four 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.

“Min Aung Hlaing and his regime have already committed many unforgivable mistakes against the whole of Myanmar’s society, from the coup itself to the arrests of elected leaders to mass killings of citizens and more. The execution would be another unforgivable mistake,” political analyst Naing Khit wrote recently.

He warned that hanging the two popular figures, who are dear to many in Myanmar and are regarded by the public as symbols of the ongoing anti-regime resistance, would certainly escalate that resistance and bring about all-out war from all of the junta’s opponents as well as the general public.

“Such a move will also lead to global condemnation and cement the junta’s reputation as among the worst of the worst human rights abusers in Asia,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of US-based Human Rights Watch.