Global pressure mounts to halt executions by Myanmar junta

The United Nations, global powers and rights groups have demanded a halt to the execution of four people including a politician and an activist by Myanmar’s military junta.

Former lawmaker Phyo Zeya Thaw, pro-democracy activist Ko Jimmy and two others were convicted of terrorism and sentenced to death by hanging, said media reports citing junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun.

Rumors doing the rounds last week hinted that Zeya Thaw and Ko Jimmy would be hanged inside the notorious Insein Prison in Myanmar’s commercial Yangon.

The families of the two activists have appealed to the international community to intervene and stop the unjust and inhuman executions.

Nicholas Koumjian, head of the UN’s Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, warned that the planned executions may constitute one or more crimes against humanity or war crimes.

“The available information strongly suggests that under international law fundamental rights of the convicted persons were blatantly violated in these proceedings,” Koumjian said on June 20.

The international community including the US and France have slammed the death sentences even while Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), shot off a letter to Myanmar’s military chief not to enforce the decision.

If the junta carries out the executions, it would be the first judicial executions in the conflict-torn Southeast Asian nation for more than 30 years.

“The illegitimate military junta is providing the international community with further evidence of its disregard for human rights as it prepares to hang pro-democracy activists,” said Thomas Andrews, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, and Morris Tidball-Binz, special rapporteur on extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions.

The junta continues to defy the appeals from the international community, saying it will carry out the executions as required by law without providing the exact date or time.

The UN experts said the death sentences “handed down by an illegitimate court of an illegitimate junta, are a vile attempt at instilling fear amongst the people of Myanmar.”

Human Rights Watch has documented 114 people sentenced to death in Myanmar, including 41 in absentia, since the coup last February by what it called “secretive tribunals with lightning convictions aimed to chill dissent against the military junta.”

At least 2,000 people including more than 100 children have been killed and over 14,000 detained since the coup on Feb. 1, 2021.