Four anti-government activists have been executed by Myanmar’s military junta for offenses involving “explosives, bombings and financing terrorism under the Anti-Terrorism Law”. More than 70 other political prisoners are currently on death row. These state executions are Myanmar’s first in over 30 years.
Two of the executed men, Phyo Zeya Thaw (formerly of Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD) and Kyaw Min Yu (a prominent advocate for democracy) were charged according to the ‘Anti-Terrorism Law’ put in place by the military, though it is heavily suspected that these executions are politically motivated. The charges of ‘terror acts’ appear mainly unfounded, and the military trials were held behind closed doors with defendants denied the right to appeal. Whilst relatives travelled to the prison where the executions took place, the bodies of the tried were not handed over – despite prison regulations saying they must be (unless there are mitigating circumstances – none of which were provided).
The reappearance of capital punishment in Myanmar comes following a brutal suppressive and violent regime put in place by the military, who, after overthrowing the government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021, have taken complete control of the country and government.
Attacks have been reported against villages and an estimated 11,000 people have been imprisoned in the months following the coup.
Though the four executions mark the first to be carried out by the junta, AAPP Burma claim a further 76 prisoners have been sentenced to death, including two children, and a further 2,123 people have been killed by the Junta.
The resurgence of the Communist Party of Burma has organised a People’s Liberation Army following the Spring Revolution of 2021 – a CP Burma representative told the Morning Star newspaper that they had been “trying to re-establish it for several years, but it has effectively come into existence now due to new possibilities that have emerged from the people’s resistance against the junta’s coup.”
Amidst outrage from both the people of Myanmar and internationally, the CP Burma also allege that alongside the death penalty the junta are also “committing war crimes of looting, burning (alive) and killing on a daily basis.”
The people of Myanmar seem fated to have to endure greater and greater injustice at the cruel hands of the junta; but there is reason to have hope. In the face of overwhelming suppression, Myanmar’s streets have been lined with protesters against the use of the death penalty, despite fears of retribution at the hands of the army.
The return of CP Burma is another reminder of the strength and resilience of those fighting for a better Myanmar, and becomes one of many small specks of light in Myanmar’s long night.
Eddie Dewing, is a member of the YCL’s North East branch