Four activists for democracy in Myanmar were executed by the country’s military for what the regime referred to as “terror acts.”
The deceased include Ko Jimmy, Phyo Zeya Thaw, Hla Myo Aung, and Aung Thura Zaw.
Ko Jimmy, 53, was part of a student uprising called the 88 Generation Students Group which stood up against an earlier military coup in 1988. He and his wife were among some of the earliest pro-Burmese democracy advocates.
In 2007, the two mobilized demonstrators from the 88 Generation Students Group to support a monk led protest against the regime.
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. pic.twitter.com/UqvOazmzIF
— U.S. Embassy Burma (@USEmbassyBurma) July 25, 2022
After serving multiple sentences, he was released from prison in 2012. He was then arrested again this past October on accusations of caching weapons and ammunition in a Yangon apartment and advising the shadow government National Unity Government of Myanmar (NUG).
The NUG was formed in 2021 in response to the 2021 military coup and is made up of democracy advocates, activists, former lawmakers, and armed ethnic groups. Their message is the need to “punish (the) murderous military junta for their cruelty and killings”.
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Phyo Zeya Thaw, 41, was a former hip-hop artist who released Myanmar’s first ever rap album with lyrics critical of the military junta. Zeya then became a member of Parliament.
Little is known about Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw.
According to Global News Light of Myanmar, a state news outlet, the men were executed because they “gave directives, made arrangements and committed conspiracies for brutal and inhumane terror acts”. They were sentenced to death in a private trial that is being called unjust and fascist by rights groups.
Thaw’s mother said, “When we met on Zoom last Friday, my son was healthy and smiling. He asked me to send his reading glasses, dictionary and some money to use in prison, so I brought those things to the prison today. That’s why I didn’t think they would kill him. I didn’t believe it.”
According to the United Nations, these are the first executions in Myanmar/Burma since 1988 which were done by hanging.
Tom Andrews, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar said “I am outraged and devastated at the news of the junta’s execution of Myanmar patriots and champions of human rights and democracy. These depraved acts must be a turning point for the international community.”
The NUG said they were “extremely shocked and saddened” by the executions.
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), 14,847 people have been detained and arrested since the 2021 coup, and estimates that 2114 have been murdered by the military regime.