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  • Schuyler Beltrami

Myanmar Military Junta Executes Four Democracy Activists

The ruling military junta in the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar has executed four democracy activists, sparking anger and condemnation from world leaders. It is believed to be the first official use of capital punishment in the country since 1988. The executions represent a significant turning point in relations between the military junta, who regained control of the country in 2021 through a coup, and democracy activists.

Activist Ko Jimmy were one of the four killed by the military junta. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Four Democracy Activists Sentenced to Death

On Monday, news came out of the troubled Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar (also known as Burma) that the ruling military junta in the country had executed four pro-democracy advocates. The junta said the reason for their execution was due to the four committing “terrorist acts”. The four activists who were executed – lawmaker Phyo Zeya Thaw, activist Ko Jimmy (real name, Kyaw Min Yu), Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw – came from various backgrounds and played differing roles within pro-democracy organizations in the country. According to a report from the BBC, family members of the condemned were unaware of their fates until after the executions had already taken place. The mother of Mr. Zeya Thaw said that she had come to the prison where he was being held on the day of his execution, because they had planned to meet that day so she could bring him materials he required for his stay in prison, including reading glasses and money. When she arrived at her son’s prison, she was told that he had already been executed. Family members from the other three activists say they have yet to receive the bodies of their loved ones and have asked government officials for more information about their deaths. Representatives of the military junta did not say when or how the executions were carried out. According to state TV, the four activists were executed for their roles within pro-democracy institutions, which are labelled as terrorist networks by the ruling junta. Specifically, the four activists were charged with giving directives and making arrangements for “brutal and inhumane terrorist acts”. Many of the democracy activists which were targeted by this latest round of executions had served long jail sentences before the restoration of democratic rule in the country in 2011. This period of liberalization and democratization in the country was short-lived, as the military junta retook power in the country away from democratic groups in 2021.

Outrage from World Leaders over Killings

The news of the execution of the four Burmese democratic activists sparked outrage and international condemnation from world leaders. United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted “Such reprehensible acts of violence and repression cannot be tolerated. We remain committed to the people of Burma and their efforts to restore Burma’s path to democracy.” Tom Andrews, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar, said that he was “outraged and devastated” by the news of the killings. Within the country, the largest democratic union in Myanmar, the NUG, said that they were “extremely shocked and saddened” by the killings and urged the international community to “punish the murderous military junta for their cruelty and killings”. However, one of Myanmar’s closest allies, China, said that they would not interfere in another country’s internal issues when its foreign ministry was pressed for comment on the situation. This tacit support of the bloody regime in Myanmar has given the country an outlet for economic expansion, despite a long list of goods and Burmese officials, which are sanctioned by the United States and European Union. Not included in the executions was perhaps the country’s best-known democracy advocate, Aung San Suu Kyi, who is currently serving up to 150 years in house arrest for a multitude of charges which were imposed on her when the military junta regained power in the country. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which keeps a running tally of jailed and killed pro-democracy advocates in Myanmar, nearly 15 thousand people have been arrested in the country and over two thousand have been killed by military forces since the military regained control in 2021.

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