Activist, Ex-Lawmaker Among Detainees Executed in Myanmar

Myanmar’s military regime has executed four individuals, including a deposed pro-democracy lawmaker and a prominent activist, in its first use of the death penalty in over three decades, state media reported Monday.

Kyaw Min Yu, also known as Jimmy, a leader of the activist group that opposed former dictator Ne Win, and Phyo Zeya Thaw, a civilian lawmaker overthrown in last year’s coup, were among the four. They were charged with treason and terrorism by a military tribunal this year and were executed for carrying out “brutal and inhumane terror acts such as murdering many innocent people,” according to state-owned English daily, Global New Light of Myanmar.

These executions mark the first in Southeast Asia’s overwhelmingly Buddhist nation to execute a criminal sentence since 1988. They also follow more than 2,000 civilian deaths by military forces within less than 18 months according to UN Office of the High Commissar for Human Rights.

More than 70% of the countries in the world “have abolished capital punishment in law or practice,” according to the US-based Death Penalty Information Center, an authority in the subject.

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Major General Zaw Min Tu, the State Administration Council’s lead spokesperson, refused to comment and instead referred Bloomberg News directly to the report.

“The junta’s announced decision to execute the activists illustrates how the military seeks to use all apparatuses of the state to persecute those that oppose its attempt to return Myanmar to military authoritarian rule,” UN experts said on the matter last month. “The illegitimate military junta is providing the international community with further evidence of its disregard for human rights.”

Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was last month moved to solitary confinement inside a military-built prison compound in the capital of Naypyidaw after a special court in April sentenced her to five years in prison in the first of several corruption charges leveled against her. She is effectively prevented from staging another political comeback by the fact that her total sentence increases to eleven years.

Suu Kyi faces more than 12 other charges including violation of the colonial-era Official Secrets Act. These remaining charges carry a maximum sentence of nearly 190 years in prison.

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