Myanmar military executes four democracy activists

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Myanmar’s military junta has executed four democracy activists accused of helping to carry out “terror acts”, it said on Monday, sparking widespread condemnation of the Southeast Asian nation’s first executions in decades, reported Reuters.

Sentenced to death in closed-door trials in January and April, the four men had been accused of helping insurgents to fight the army that seized power in a coup last year and unleashed a bloody crackdown on its opponents.

Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG), a shadow administration outlawed by the ruling junta, condemned the executions and called for international action against the ruling military.

“Extremely saddened … condemn the junta’s cruelty,” Kyaw Zaw, the spokesman of the NUG president’s office, told Reuters in a message. “The global community must punish their cruelty.”

Among those executed were democracy campaigner Kyaw Min Yu, better known as Jimmy, and former lawmaker and hip-hop artist Phyo Zeya Thaw, the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.

Kyaw Min Yu, 53, and Phyo Zeya Thaw, a 41-year-old ally of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, lost their appeals against the sentences in June. The two others executed were Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw.

“These executions amount to arbitrary deprivation of lives and are another example of Myanmar’s atrocious human rights record,” said Erwin Van Der Borght, regional director of rights group Amnesty International.

“The four men were convicted by a military court in highly secretive and deeply unfair trials. The international community must act immediately as more than 100 people are believed to be on death row after being convicted in similar proceedings.”

Thazin Nyunt Aung, the wife of Phyo Zeyar Thaw, said she had not been told of her husband’s execution. Other relatives could not immediately be reached for comment.

The men had been held in the colonial-era Insein prison and a person with knowledge of the events said their families visited it last Friday. Only one relative was allowed to speak to the detainees via an online platform, the source told Reuters.

State media reported the executions on Monday and junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun later confirmed the sentences to the Voice of Myanmar. Neither gave details of the timing.

Previous executions in Myanmar have been by hanging.

An activist group, the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (AAPP), said Myanmar’s last judicial executions were in the late 1980s.

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