Myanmar executes NLD MP and 3 other political detainees

BANGKOK (AP) — Myanmar carried out its first executions in nearly 50 years with the hanging of a former National League for Democracy lawmaker, a democracy activist and two men accused of violence after the military takeover of the country last year.

The executions announced on Monday took place despite global calls for clemency for the four political detainees.

The state-run Mirror Daily newspaper said the four men planned, directed and organized “the violent and inhumane acts of complicity in terrorist assassinations”.

The newspaper said they were hanged in accordance with prison procedures, but did not say when the executions took place.

Phyo Zeya Thaw, a 41-year-old former lawmaker from ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, also known as Maung Kyaw, was convicted in January by a closed military court of offenses involving explosives, bombings and the financing of terrorism.

He 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 said were terrorist attacks in Yangon, the country’s largest city.

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

Kyaw Min Yu, a 53-year-old democracy activist better known as Ko Jimmy, was also executed for violating the anti-terrorism law. Kyaw Min Yu was one of the leaders of the Generation 88 student group, veterans of a failed 1988 popular uprising against military rule.

He had already spent more than a dozen years behind bars for political activism before his arrest in Yangon last October. He had been put on a wanted list for social media posts allegedly inciting unrest and state media said he was charged with terrorist acts, including mine attacks, and for leading a group called Operation Moon Light to carry out urban guerrilla attacks.

The other two men, Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw, were convicted of torturing and killing a woman in March 2021 whom they believed to be a military informant.

Western governments, rights groups and UN experts have lambasted the decision to hang them.

“The illegitimate military junta provides the international community with further proof of its disregard for human rights as it prepares to hang pro-democracy activists,” said two UN experts, Thomas Andrews, rapporteur Special Report on Human Rights in Myanmar, and Morris Tidball-Binz. , special rapporteur on extrajudicial or arbitrary summary executions, said earlier.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had earlier urged Myanmar to reconsider its situation and suggested that their executions would draw strong condemnation and complicate efforts to restore peace.

Hun Sen is particularly interested in Myanmar as Cambodia this year chairs the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which has sought to end violence in Myanmar and provide humanitarian aid . Myanmar is a member of ASEAN but has not cooperated with the bloc’s plans.

Myanmar’s foreign ministry dismissed criticism of the decision to carry out the executions, saying Myanmar’s justice system was fair and that Phyo Zeya Thaw and Kyaw Min Yu were “proven to be the masterminds of orchestrating attacks large-scale terrorists against innocent civilians to sow fear and disrupt peace and stability.

“They killed at least 50 people,” military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun said on live television last month, referring to Phyo Zeya Thaw and Kyaw Min Yu. He said that the decision to hang the four prisoners was for the rule of law and to prevent similar incidents from happening again.

Myanmar’s military seized power from the elected government of Suu Kyi in February 2021, sparking peaceful protests that quickly turned into armed resistance and then widespread fighting that some UN experts call a civil war.

Some resistance groups have engaged in assassinations, drive-by shootings and bombings in urban areas. The main opposition organizations generally disavow such activities, while supporting armed resistance in rural areas which are more often subjected to brutal military attacks.

Under Myanmar law, executions must be approved by the head of government. The last judicial execution to take place in Myanmar is widely believed to have been that of another political offender, student leader Salai Tin Maung Oo, in 1976 under a previous military government led by dictator Ne Win.

In 2014, the sentences of those on death row were commuted to life imprisonment, but several dozen convicts were sentenced to death between that date and the takeover last year.

The Political Prisoners Assistance Association, a nongovernmental organization that tracks killings and arrests, said Friday that 2,114 civilians have been killed by security forces since the military coup. He said another 115 people had been sentenced to death.

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