Myanmar’s military has killed four democracy activists in what is believed to be the first use of the death penalty in decades.
Former MP Phyo Zeya Thaw, writer and activist Jimmy, Hala Myo Aung and Aung Thura Jaw were accused of committing “terrorist acts”. The military announced the executions for the first time in June, drawing international condemnation.
They have come in the wake of the 2021 military coup.
In February last year, the people overthrew the democratically elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) in February, sparking massive protests swiftly crushed.
The shadow National Unity Government of Myanmar (NUG), which was formed in opposition to the coup, condemned the killings, saying they were “extremely shocked and saddened”.
It comprises pro-democracy figures, representatives of armed ethnic groups and members of the NLD – they urged the international community to “punish (the) murderous military junta for their cruelty and killings”.
The state news outlet – Global News Light of Myanmar – said the four men were executed as they “gave directives, made arrangements and committed conspiracies for brutal and inhumane terror acts”.
It said they had been charged under the counter-terrorism laws but did not say when or how they were executed.
The executions are the first since 1988, according to the United Nations. Previous performances in Myanmar have been by hanging.
Military authorities have intensified their crackdown on local militias, opposition activists and those deemed to be harbouring anti-coup sentiments since they seized power last year.
They claimed the results of a general election that saw Suu Kyi’s political party winning by a landslide were rigged – an accusation election commission officials denied, saying there was no evidence of fraud.
Since the coup, Suu Kyi has been detained under house arrest and slapped with a litany of charges ranging from corruption to violating the country’s official secrets act, which could see her serving a sentence of up to 150 years.
Over 2,100 killed since coup: activist group
The AAPP says the security forces have killed more than 2,100 people since the coup, but the junta says the figure is exaggerated.
The accurate 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.
The latest executions close off any chance of ending the unrest, said Myanmar analyst Richard Horsey, of the International CRISIS group.
“Any possibility of dialogue to end the crisis created by the coup has now been removed,” Mr Horsey told Reuters.
“This regime demonstrates that it will do what it wants and listen to no one. It sees this as a demonstration of strength, but it may be a serious miscalculation.”