Red Alert: Myanmar Regime to Hang More Political Prisoners; World Must Act Now

By The Irrawaddy 28 July 2022

Here is our urgent warning to the world: Myanmar’s barbaric regime is planning to execute more political prisoners on death row in the coming days and weeks.

For anyone who has sympathy for them and desires to see justice prevail in the country, now is not the time for procrastination.

Following the junta’s recent executions of four democracy activists, the fate of the remaining 76 political prisoners on the regime’s death row is now of great concern to Myanmar people.

They have reason to be worried.

After the weekend hangings of Ko Jimmy, Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw, Ko Hla Myo Aung and Ko Aung Thura Zaw, alarming reports have emerged that political prisoners sentenced to death in Yangon’s Insein Prison have been isolated from other inmates. Forty-one of the 76 detainees sentenced to death are being held at Insein Prison. As of Thursday, 118 people had been sentenced to death for their anti-regime activism in Myanmar. Forty-two of those were sentenced in absentia.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma on Wednesday said the remaining 76—who include university students, young professionals and eight women—would likely face extrajudicial killings at the hands of the regime, like the four activists hanged over the weekend. The Irrawaddy has also learned that more hangings are in the pipeline.

Some of the political prisoners on the regime’s death row

The news has devastated the family members of the political prisoners on death row. They are silently praying they will not receive phone calls from prison authorities informing them they are to have “a meeting” with their condemned loved ones. The four recently executed activists were granted video meetings with their mothers and other relatives, then hanged within 24 hours.

“I don’t want to get the call from them. I fear bad consequences. I can’t bear to think about it,”said a family member of a political prisoner sentenced to death.

Through her tears, a deeply distraught mother begged the junta not to kill her son, while pleading for help from others: “Is there anyone who can save us? I would die if I face it. I can’t take it anymore.”

The quotes above are extracts from The Irrawaddy’s interviews with family members of some of the political prisoners on death row; they capture the bleak situation in the country, as well as the families’ emotional devastation. All of the interviewees asked that their names and those of their imprisoned relatives be withheld, as they were extremely worried that the junta would kill their loved ones in haste as a punishment for talking to the media.

For some skeptical souls who dare to wonder whether the regime would really do something so heinous for merely talking to the press, remember what regime leader Min Aung Hlaing once said: “There is nothing I don’t dare to do.”

In the latest testament to their limitless inhumanity, the regime on Wednesday organized attacks on the homes of the recently executed Ko Jimmy and Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw, angered by the fact that the duo are being praised as martyrs, and because Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw’s mother told the media she was proud of her son. Please note the attacks came while the parents and relatives were still mourning their fresh losses.

As the regime never fails to show new acts of barbarity to the world, we should not underestimate the junta; they won’t allow (and have never allowed) any ethical consideration or pang of conscience to get in the way of their grip on power.

Given the junta’s relentless show of inhumanity, fears are high for the lives of the remaining 74 political prisoners on the regime’s death row. Even if they don’t kill them all, some—especially those convicted in high-profile cases—are at great risk, as the regime would simply carry out their executions as a form of reprisal, in the name of their so-called “rule of law” and “seeking justice” for junta informants and other regime targets attacked by resistance groups. Then, Myanmar will have to mourn more losses.

If the executions are carried out, it would be too much for many in Myanmar, which has already lost more than 2,000 people to the regime since the coup last year.

It’s time for the UN to adopt some meaningful resolutions to save lives in Myanmar—a step beyond Security Council condemnations of the executions of the four democracy activists. The same goes for the world’s democracies, including the US; it’s time to prove to the evil regime that they have to pay a price for their horrendous treatment of Myanmar and its people, as the world will no longer tolerate them.

With the regime’s executions  last week, we have all failed Ko Jimmy, Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw, Ko Hla Myo Aung and Ko Aung Thura Zaw.

The world should not fail the Myanmar people, and the 74 political prisoners on death row, again.

They should not feel they are forsaken while struggling to survive amid the junta’s unwavering abuses. They deserve to feel there are some in the world who care for them.

Show your humanity with meaningful action on Myanmar now, please!

EDITOR’s NOTE: The editorial was updated on Friday to reflect the latest number of death sentences.

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