Burma’s military junta has executed four democracy activists convicted of terrorism in a move swiftly condemned by international human rights groups.
The four men were executed for committing “violent and inhuman acts of terrorism,” the junta’s Information Ministry said in a statement on Sunday. This marks the first executions carried out by Burma in decades.
The ministry said the executions were carried out in accordance with “the relevant provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Law” but did not specify where or when they occurred.
Phyo Zeyar Thaw, a former lawmaker from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National Democracy League (NLD) party, and veteran democracy activist Kyaw Min Yu—also known as Jimmy Ko—were executed for terrorism-related offenses.
The junta also executed Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw for allegedly killing a military junta informant in Yangon. All of them were convicted of terrorism after closed trials in January and April.
An Act of ‘Utter Cruelty’
Human rights groups were outraged by the junta’s executions of the four individuals, claiming that they were sentenced to death without the right to appeal or legal counsel.
Elaine Pearson, acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), called on the international community to demand immediate measures, including the release of all political detainees in Burma (also known as Myanmar), and to hold the military regime accountable for its atrocities.
“The Myanmar junta’s execution of four men was an act of utter cruelty,” Pearson said in a statement. “These executions, including of activist Ko Jimmy and opposition lawmaker Phyo Zeya Thaw, followed grossly unjust and politically motivated military trials.”
“The junta’s barbarity and callous disregard for human life aims to chill the anti-coup protest movement. European Union member states, the United States, and other governments should show the junta that there will be a reckoning for its crimes,” she added.
The United Nations special envoy, Tom Andrews, condemned the junta’s executions of democracy activists and urged U.N. member states to take action against the junta’s “widespread and systematic murders of protestors” and executions of activists.
“I am outraged and devastated at the news of the junta’s execution of Myanmar patriots and champions of human rights and democracy,” Andrews said in a tweet.
“These depraved acts must be a turning point for the international community. What more must the junta do before the international community is willing to take strong action?” he added.
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), the junta failed to inform the families of each convicted individual regarding the status of the military court, location of the trials, and the nature of the trial.
“The execution announcement openly mocked the worlds’ efforts to abolish capital punishment. This calculated act uses political prisoners as hostage, to threaten a population resisting the military coup,” the AAPP said in a June statement.
The military junta ousted the elected NLD Party in February 2021, sparking widespread anti-coup protests in Burma. At least 1,600 people have been killed and more than 12,500 people have been detained since the military seized power, according to a March UN report.
Rohingya ‘Genocide’ Case
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on July 22 rejected all of Burma’s preliminary objections to a case alleging that the military-ruled nation committed genocide against the Rohingya ethnic minority.
The West African country The Gambia filed the case in November 2019, alleging that Burma committed genocidal acts against the minority to “destroy the Rohingya group in whole or in part.”
The Burmese government raised four preliminary objections to challenge the court’s jurisdiction and the admissibility of the application, stating that The Gambia had no standing to bring the case to the ICJ.
The court unanimously rejected three of Burma’s objections (pdf) and one objection by a 15–1 majority. ICJ President Joan Donoghue said the court has jurisdiction over the case and that The Gambia’s application was “admissible.”
The court, rejecting Burma’s preliminary objections, could allow the case to proceed with the merits hearing.
Aldgra Fredly is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, covering Asia Pacific news for The Epoch Times.