For the first time in decades, Myanmar's military junta revealed on Monday, 25 July, that it had executed four pro-democracy activists accused of allegedly assisting in carrying out "terror acts."
The four men, who had been sentenced to death in closed-door trials in January and April, had been charged with helping militias combat the army, as per Reuters.
Myanmar's National Unity Government (NUG), a shadow administration banned by the ruling junta, slammed the executions and called for action to be taken against the army on a global scale.
"Extremely saddened. (We) condemn the junta's cruelty. The global community must punish their cruelty," the NUG president’s office spokesperson Kyaw Zaw said.
Among the people executed was pro-democracy figure Kyaw Min Yu, aka Jimmy, former lawmaker and hip-hop artist Phyo Zeya Thaw (who was an ally of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi), Hla Myo Aung, and Aung Thura Zaw.
Wife Not Informed of Her Husband's Execution
Meanwhile, Thaw's wife Thazin Nyunt Aung said that she had not been informed about her husband's execution.
The accused persons had been held in a colonial-era prison. Only one relative was permitted to speak to them via the online platform Zoom, Reuters quoted a person familiar with the incident as saying.
The Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (AAPP), an activist group, said that the last judicial executions in Myanmar had been carried out in the 1980s.
'Barbaric, Utter Cruelty': Executions Draw International Condemnation
The move drew condemnation from several global bodies.
Slamming the executions, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar Tom Andrews said, "I am outraged and devastated at the news of the junta's execution of Myanmar patriots and champions of human rights and democracy."
"My heart goes out to their families, friends and loved ones and indeed all the people in Myanmar who are victims of the junta's escalating atrocities. These depraved acts must be a turning point for the international community," he added.
Another international body, Human Rights Watch, also condemned the executions and called for scrapping the death penalty in Myanmar.
"Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all countries and under all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty and finality, and has long called on Myanmar to end all use of the death penalty," the body said.
Human Rights Watch Asia director Elaine Pearson called the actions "an act of utter cruelty."
"These executions followed grossly unjust and politically motivated military trials. This horrific news was compounded by the junta’s failure to notify the men’s families, who learned about the executions through the junta’s media reports," she said.
She also urged the European Union and the United States to take action against the ruling junta.
"The junta’s barbarity and callous disregard for human life aims to chill the anti-coup protest movement. European Union member states, the United States, and other governments should show the junta that there will be a reckoning for its crimes. They should demand immediate measures, including the release of all political prisoners, and let the junta know the atrocities it commits have consequences."Elaine Pearson, Human Rights Watch Asia director
US, Myanmar Shadow Govt Condemn Executions
The United States' Embassy in Burma condemned the execution and said, "We condemn the military regime’s execution of pro-democracy leaders and elected officials for exercising their fundamental freedoms."
"We join the people of Myanmar in mourning the loss of Ko Jimmy, Phyo Zeya Thaw, Hla Myo Aung, and Aung Thura Zaw. Our deepest condolences to their families and many friends," the embassy added in a statement.
Myanmar National Unity Government Spokesperson Kyaw Zaw also condemned the junta and said that the "global community must punish their cruelty," Reuters reported.
Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard, expressing outrage, said, "Devastated. Disgusted. Myanmar Junta has resumed death penalty, executed democracy activists Ko Jimmy and Phyo Zeya Thaw and 2 more."
"There must be prompt, forceful response. International inaction and complicity must end," she added.
She also added that the four were convicted by a military court in "highly secretive and deeply unfair trials."