Myanmar’s junta has said it will execute a former lawmaker from Aung San Suu Kyi’s party and a prominent democracy activist, both of whom were convicted of terrorism, in the country’s first judicial executions since 1990.
Four people, including the former MP Phyo Zeya Thaw and the democracy activist Kyaw Min Yu, better known as Ko Jimmy, “will be hanged according to prison procedures,” Zaw Min Tun told AFP on Friday.
The junta has sentenced dozens of anti-coup activists to death as part of its crackdown on dissent after seizing power last year, but Myanmar has not carried out an execution for decades.
Phyo Zeya Thaw, a former lawmaker from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy who was arrested in November, was sentenced to death in January for offenses under anti-terrorism laws.
Ko Jimmy received the same sentence from the military tribunal.
“They continued the legal process of appealing and sending a request letter for the amendment of the sentence,” said Zaw Min Tun, a spokesperson for the junta. “But the court rejected their appeal and request. There is no other step after that.”
Two men who were convicted and sentenced to death for killing a woman they alleged was an informant for the junta in Yangon will also be executed, the spokesperson said. No date has been set for the executions, he said.
A spokesperson for Amnesty International called on the junta to “immediately drop such plans and for the international community to step up its efforts to intervene”.
Phil Robertson, a deputy director at Human Rights Watch, said the junta’s decision to “move towards executing two prominent political leaders will be like pouring gasoline on the fire of popular anti-military resistance in the country. Such a move will also lead to global condemnation and cement the junta’s reputation as among the worst of the worst human rights abusers in Asia.”
Phyo Zeya Thaw had been accused of orchestrating several attacks on regime forces, including a gun attack on a commuter train in Yangon in August that killed five police officers. A hip-hop pioneer whose subversive rhymes irked the previous junta, Phyo Zeya Thaw was jailed in 2008 for membership of an illegal organization and possession of foreign currency.
He was elected to parliament representing Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD in the 2015 elections, which ushered in a transition to civilian rule.
The country’s military alleged vote fraud during elections in 2020 – which the NLD won by a landslide – as justification for its coup on 1 February 2021.
Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained ever since and faces a slew of charges in a junta court that could lead to her facing a prison sentence of more than 150 years.
Kyaw Min Yu, who rose to prominence during Myanmar’s 1988 student uprising against the country’s previous military regime, was arrested in an overnight raid in October. The junta issued an arrest warrant for him last year, alleging he had incited unrest with his social media posts.