The Myanmar junta’s execution of four democracy activists has sparked condemnation from the international community.
On Monday, the country’s ruling military announced that it had executed Hla Myo Aung, Aung Thura Zaw, democracy advocate Kyaw Min Yu and former lawmaker Phyo Zeya Thaw, a known ally of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The men, accused of fighting the military by aiding a civilian resistance movement, were sentenced to death in secretive trials in January and April.
Without providing details on the date or manner of execution, the state media revealed that “the punishment has been conducted” against the men.
The deaths, which mark the country’s first judicial executions in decades, sparked local and global condemnation.
Masked protesters took to the streets in Yangon, chanting and carrying signs that read “We will never be frightened” before turning to disperse.
“The global community must punish their cruelty,” said Kyaw Zaw, a spokesperson for the shadow National Unity Government (NUG), the country’s leading opposition group against the junta.
In a statement, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a regional grouping that Myanmar is part of, denounced the execution, saying the members are “strongly disappointed.”
ASEAN has long urged the junta to initiate reconciliation with the pro-democracy leaders that they ousted in February 2021 and adhere to the five-point peace plan it agreed to last year.
“ASEAN remains resolved to assist Myanmar’s return to normalcy and democratic transition and to find a peaceful political solution to the current crisis through inclusive dialogue that is Myanmar-led and Myanmar-owned, in line with the 5PC and the ASEAN Charter,” the statement read. “This is urgently needed to prevent further loss of lives and end the suffering of the people of Myanmar.”
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who chairs the ASEAN, appealed to junta chief Min Aung Hlaing last month to desist from the executions.
The European Union, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Britain and the United States released a joint statement describing the executions as “reprehensible acts of violence that further exemplify the regime’s disregard for human rights and the rule of law.”
In a separate statement, the White House condemned the “heinous execution of pro-democracy activists and elected leaders.”
China’s foreign ministry urged opposing groups in Myanmar to resolve conflicts within the country’s constitutional framework.
Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for the release of deposed Myanmar leader Suu Kyi and all other arbitrarily arrested prisoners.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which tracks arrests, killings and court verdicts in Myanmar, noted that since taking over in February last year, the military-run courts have handed down around 117 death sentences.
The junta’s spokesperson had earlier justified the death sentences by pointing out the punishment is also used in other countries.
As for the over 2,100 people that the AAPP says the security forces have killed since the coup, the junta said that the figure is exaggerated.