Myanmar Is the Country of Great Deaths 

By Naing Khit 29 July 2022

They died truly great deaths, because they gave their lives: for the people, in order to restore their rights and dignity; for the country, to end the horrific military dictatorship; and for future generations, to rebuild their battered country.

Myanmar’s latest citizens to earn the distinction of dying “great deaths” are veteran pro-democracy activist Ko Kyaw Min Yu, known as Ko Jimmy; former National League for Democracy lawmaker and hip-hop star Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw; and anti-coup protesters Ko Hla Myo Aung and Ko Aung Thura Zaw. The four were hanged by Myanmar’s military regime during the weekend of July 23 and 24 inside Insein Prison.

By ordering their executions—and reviving that awful method of punishment—Min Aung Hlaing attained a level of barbarism not seen in Myanmar in many decades, outdoing even his brutal predecessor. Until last weekend, no military regime had hanged a political activist since the 1970s.

Information I have obtained from sources close to the military shine an interesting light on the mentality of Min Aung Hlaing.

After the four were hanged, while some of the regime leader’s deputies thought it wasn’t necessary to make the news public immediately, Min Aung Hlaing insisted it be announced. Such was his eagerness to let the people of Myanmar and the world know that his regime had carried out the first executions in decades.

It appears he was impatient to savor what he saw as a moment of “triumph”. This is the mentality of a psychopath.

Of course, the regime has been committing extrajudicial killings on the streets, in interrogation centers and throughout the country since his coup on Feb. 1, 2021. It is nothing unusual for them. But the hangings of the four, including two respected pro-democracy activists, had a particular intent: They were an act of “judicial” revenge against all those who oppose Min Aung Hlaing, and against a world that has condemned his regime.

The actions taken by Min Aung Hlaing since his coup demonstrate that he is a truly dangerous and ruthless ruler lacking any of the qualities that make one human, such as rationality, empathy and remorse.

The four executed anti-regime activists (from left to right): Ko Jimmy, Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw, Ko Aung Thura Zaw and Ko Hla Myo Aung

His primary motivations for ordering the four to hang and letting the world know immediately were: 1) to terrify the general public, who have defied him; 2) to demoralize the entire community of dissidents, most of whom knew the executed activists personally and regarded them with great fondness; and 3) to defy the entire international community, which had urged him to rescind his death orders.

U Saw of the 21st century  

On Monday morning, the junta’s announcement of the executions shocked and dismayed the people of Myanmar. Judging from the feelings expressed on the ground and on social media, it seems safe to say it was the saddest day the country has experienced since July 19, 1947, when independence leader Aung San and his cabinet members were assassinated by an extreme right-wing politician, U Saw, under British rule.

In the eyes of the people, U Saw is still the arch traitor of Myanmar, having betrayed an entire nation.

Min Aung Hlaing is the U Saw of the 21st century. In fact, he is crueler and more evil than U Saw, who plotted to have nine people killed. Min Aung Hlaing’s squads have killed more than 2,000 people in the one-and-a-half years since he seized power on Feb. 1, 2021. His regime has set out to annihilate all pro-democracy forces, dissidents and their families. The country’s fledgling democratic system has been demolished and the society destroyed.

In the eyes of the people today, Min Aung Hlaing is the new arch traitor of the nation.

Having killed the four, his regime and its squads of prison executioners now await further orders from him to hang more political activists on death row in various prisons across Myanmar. Right now, 76 political activists—including university students, young professionals and eight women—are on death row in prisons, and another 42 people have been sentenced to death in absentia.

Sadly, we are likely to hear of more hangings in the near future. Min Aung Hlaing is without doubt crueler and more evil than U Saw.

It seems there is nothing and no one who can stop Min Aung Hlaing, a serial killer who has used various means to murder his victims. His latest instrument of death is the gallows, a method calculated to haunt his living opponents.

But across the country, freedom fighters like Ko Jimmy and Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw have shown that they are not afraid to keep fighting Min Aung Hlaing’s brutal regime. Since the executions, almost all opposition groups, from the parallel civilian National Unity Government to various People’s Defense Force groups to ethnic armed organizations, have vowed to escalate their fight to uproot the regime.

How many more good citizens—people like Ko Jimmy, Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw, Ko Hla Myo Aung and Ko Aung Thura Zaw—will our nation lose on the gallows?

U Saw killed nine leading politicians; those who were killed became national martyrs. Min Aung Hlaing has killed thousands of pro-democracy activists and continues to kill: they too have become, and will become, martyrs.

The battle between the dictatorial generals and Myanmar’s brave people is not over yet. People right across the country are waging a grand struggle for their future and they are brave enough to die great deaths. Under successive dictatorships over the past many decades, countless freedom fighters died great deaths in this great fight.

Myanmar is a country of great deaths.

Naing Khit is a commentator on political affairs.