Myanmar junta executes democracy activists

Myanmar’s military authorities have executed four democracy activists accused of helping carry out “terror acts”, the Southeast Asian nation’s first executions in decades.

Sentenced to death in January in a closed-door trial, the four men had been accused of helping militias to fight the army that seized power in a coup last year and unleashed a bloody crackdown on its opponents.

Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG), a shadow administration outlawed by the ruling military junta, condemned the reported executions on Monday.

“Extremely saddened…condem the junta’s cruelty with strongest terms if it’s the case,” the NUG president’s office spokesman Kyaw Zaw told Reuters via message.

“The global community must punish their cruelty.”

Among those executed were democracy figure Kyaw Min Yu, better known as Jimmy, and former lawmaker and hip-hop artist Phyo Zeya Thaw, the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.

Kyaw Min Yu, 53, and Phyo Zeya Thaw, a 41-year-old ally of ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, lost their appeals against the sentences in June. The two others executed were Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw.

Thazin Nyunt Aung, the wife of Phyo Zeyar Thaw, said she had not been told of her husband’s execution. Other relatives could not immediately be reached for comment.

The four had been charged under the counter-terrorism law and the penal code and the punishment was carried out according to prison procedure, the paper said, without elaborating. Previous executions in Myanmar have been by hanging.

An activist group, the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (AAPP), said Myanmar’s last judicial executions were in the late 1980s.

A military spokesman did not immediately respond to telephone calls to seek comment.

The sentences had drawn international condemnation, with two United Nations experts calling them a “vile attempt at instilling fear” among the people.

Myanmar’s ruling junta has condemned foreign statements about the execution orders as “reckless and interfering”.

The country has been in chaos since last year’s coup, with conflict spreading nationwide after the army crushed mostly peaceful protests in cities.

The AAPP says more than 2100 people have been killed by the security forces since the coup, but the junta says the figure is exaggerated.

The true picture of violence has been hard to assess as clashes have spread to more remote areas where ethnic minority insurgent groups are also fighting the military.

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