In what is believed to be the first use of capital punishment within Myanmar (Burma) in decades, four pro-democracy activists, including one former member of parliament for the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, were executed, according to the Burmese state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper.
The paper listed Ko Jimmy, Hla Myo Aung, Aung Thura Zawor, and musician-turned-lawmaker Zeya Thaw as the four prisoners executed. The report noted that they had each been sentenced to death behind closed doors in a military court in January and that the verdicts had been upheld after an appeal in June. Due to the secretive nature of the military court, details surrounding the exact nature of the charges were not made public, although the official news outlet noted that they had been charged under the country’s Counter Terrorism Law, first passed in 2014. The paper claimed that Ko Jimmy had allegedly stored weapons and ammunition for anti-government forces in his apartment, while two of them, Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw, were accused of killing a woman who supported the junta. The report provided no information on when and how the four had been executed.
State violence in Myanmar has increased dramatically since February 2021, when a military junta led by Gen. Min Aung Hlaing overthrew the democratically-elected government of President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, the two leaders of the NLD. In the aftermath of the military takeover, hundreds of thousands of Burmese demonstrators took to the streets. Since a military crackdown, the protests have largely ended in the country’s most populous areas, but they have transformed into rural insurgent movements in the countryside. At least 14,000 Burmese civilians have been arrested, and an estimated 2,000 were killed by the military during the protests, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. Win Myint and Suu Kyi were initially held under house arrest; the two have now reportedly been transferred to prison.
The National Unity Government of Myanmar, a Burmese government-in-exile led by remaining members of the NLD, immediately condemned the execution, saying that its members were “extremely shocked and saddened” by the killings and urging the international community to “punish [the] murderous military junta for their cruelty.”
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the execution as a “blatant violation of the right to life, liberty, and security of person.”
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.