Ko Jimmy celebrates with his family after being released from prison in 2012. (AFP)

Myanmar junta carries out first executions in decades: state media

Despite international condemnation, the military says it has used the death penalty for the first time in decades, executing four political prisoners including two prominent pro-democracy figures.

By AFP

Myanmar’s junta has executed four prisoners including a former National League for Democracy lawmaker, state media said Monday, in the country’s first use of capital punishment in decades.

The four, who included another prominent democracy activist, were executed for leading “brutal and inhumane terror acts”, the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.

The paper said the executions were carried out “under the prison’s procedure” without saying when or how the four men were killed.

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 had not carried out an execution for decades.

U Phyo Zeya Thaw, an NLD lawmaker who did not seek reelection in 2020, was arrested in November and sentenced to death in January for offences under anti-terrorism laws.

Prominent democracy activist Kyaw Min Yu – better known as Ko Jimmy – received the same sentence from the military tribunal.

The two other men were sentenced to death for killing a woman they alleged was an informer for the junta in Yangon.

Diplomatic condemnation

The junta was heavily criticised by international powers when they announced last month their intention to carry out the executions. 

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the junta’s decision, calling it “a blatant violation to the right to life, liberty and security of person”.

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 policemen. 

A hip-hop pioneer whose subversive rhymes irked the previous junta, he was jailed in 2008 for membership in an illegal organisation and possession of foreign currency. 

He was elected to parliament representing the NLD in the 2015 elections, which ushered in a transition to civilian rule.

The military used unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud during elections in 2020 – which the NLD won by a landslide – as justification for its coup on February 1 last year. 

NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained since then and faces a slew of charges in a junta court that could see her face a prison sentence of more than 150 years. 

Ko Jimmy, who rose to prominence during the 1988 student uprising against the country’s previous military regime, was arrested in an overnight raid in October. 

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