Ex-Myanmar lawmaker dead as nation carries out first executions in nearly 50 years – National

The Myanmar government confirmed on Monday it had carried out its first executions in nearly 50 years, hanging a former MP, a democracy activist and two other political prisoners accused of targeted killing after the country’s military takeover last year.

The executions, first announced in the state newspaper Mirror Daily, came despite pleas for clemency for the four men from around the world, including by experts from the United Nations and Cambodia, which holds the rotating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The four were executed “in accordance with legal procedures” for directing and organizing “violent and inhumane acts of complicity in terrorist killings,” the newspaper reported. It was not said when they were hanged.

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The military government later issued a brief statement on the executions, while the prison where the men had been held and the prison department declined to comment.

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Aung Myo Min, human rights minister of the Government of National Unity, a shadow civilian administration set up outside Myanmar after the military seized power in February 2021, denied allegations that the men had been involved in violence.

“Putting them to death is a way of dominating the public through fear,” he told the Associated Press.

Among those executed was Phyo Zeya Thaw, a former National League for Democracy MP of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Also known as Maung Kyaw, he was convicted by a closed military court in January on offenses related to possession of explosives, bombings and terrorist financing.

His wife, Thazin Nyunt Aung, told the AP the world must hold the military accountable for the executions. “They have to pay,” she says.

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The US Embassy in Myanmar said it mourned the loss of the four men and offered its condolences to their families while denouncing the decision to execute them.

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“We condemn the execution by the military regime of pro-democracy leaders and elected officials for exercising their fundamental freedoms,” the embassy said.

In China, a longtime ally of Myanmar’s military, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian declined to comment on the executions, saying Beijing “always upholds the principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs.”

Phyo Zeya Thaw, 41, was arrested last November based on information from people detained for shooting at security guards, state media said at the time. He was also accused of being a key figure in a network that carried out what the military described as terrorist attacks in Yangon, the country’s largest city.

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Phyo Zeya Thaw was a hip hop musician before becoming a member of the political movement Generation Wave, which was founded in 2007. He was imprisoned under a previous military government in 2008 after being accused of illegal association and possession of foreign currency.

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Also executed was Kyaw Min Yu, a 53-year-old democracy activist better known as Ko Jimmy, for violating the Counter-Terrorism Law. He was one of the leaders of the 88 Generation Students Group, veterans of a failed 1988 popular uprising against military rule.

Before his arrest in Yangon last October, he had already spent more than a dozen years behind bars for political activism. He had been wanted on social media posts allegedly inciting unrest, and state media said he had been accused of terrorist attacks, including mine attacks, and of leading a group known as Moon Light Operation, which carry out attacks by urban guerrillas target.

The other two, Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw, were found guilty in March 2021 of torturing and killing a woman they allegedly believed to be a military informer.

Elaine Pearson, acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the trials of the four were “grossly unjust and politically motivated military trials.”

“The junta’s barbarism and callous disregard for human life aims to cool down the anti-coup protest movement,” she said after the executions were announced.

Phyo Zeya Thaw arrives at the Myanmar Parliament in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, August 19, 2015. Myanmar has carried out its first executions in almost 50 years. Phyo Zeya Thaw, a 41-year-old former MP for the party of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyiâ, also known as Maung Kyaw, was convicted by a closed military court in January on offenses related to explosives, bombings and terrorist financing.

AP file photo

Thomas Andrews, an independent UN-appointed human rights expert who condemned the decision announced in June to continue executions, called for a strong international response.

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“I am outraged and devastated by the news of the execution by the junta of Burmese patriots and advocates of human rights and decency,” he said in a statement. “These individuals were tried, convicted and sentenced in violation of international human rights law by a military tribunal without the right of appeal and reportedly without legal representation.”

Myanmar’s foreign ministry dismissed the wave of criticism that followed its announcement in June, saying its judicial system was fair and that Phyo Zeya Thaw and Kyaw Min Yu “have shown masterminds in orchestrating full-scale terrorist attacks against innocent civilians, to initiate fear and disrupt peace and stability.”

“They killed at least 50 people,” military spokesman Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun said at a televised news conference last month. He said the decision to hang the prisoners was in accordance with the rule of law and the purpose was to prevent similar incidents in the future.

The military seizure of power by Suu Kyi’s elected government sparked peaceful protests that soon escalated into armed resistance and then widespread fighting in what some UN experts are calling a civil war.

Some resistance groups have been involved in assassinations, shootings from passing cars and bombings in urban areas. Mainstream opposition organizations generally oppose such activities, while supporting armed resistance in rural areas, which are more likely to face brutal military attacks.

It is widely believed that the last judicial execution in Myanmar in 1976, under a previous military government led by dictator Ne Win, fell to another political offender, student leader Salai Tin Maung Oo.

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In 2014, death row inmates had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment, but between then and last year’s takeover, several dozen convicts were sentenced to death.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an NGO that tracks killings and arrests, said Friday that 2,114 civilians have been killed by security forces since the military took over. It said 115 other people had been sentenced to death.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

https://globalnews.ca/news/9013074/myanmar-executions-july-25/ Ex-Myanmar lawmaker dead as nation carries out first executions in nearly 50 years – National


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