Myanmar could see first executions in decades as junta says death sentences of activists upheld

Two men will be executed in Myanmar by the military junta after their death sentence appeals were denied, the junta said Saturday, in what would mark the first judicial executions in the country in decades.

“It’s confirmed that Phyo Zayar Thaw and [Ko] Jimmy would be on the execution list,” junta spokesperson Zaw Min Tun told CNN, without giving a date.

In January 2022, veteran democracy activist Ko Jimmy and former National League of Democracy lawmaker Phyo Zayar Thaw were sentenced to death, according to a statement by Myanmar’s Office of the Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services.

The junta accuses the two men of being “involved in terrorist acts such as explosion attacks, killing of civilians as informants,” the junta spokesperson said.

It’s unclear whether Phyo Zayar Thaw and Ko Jimmy have denied the charges levied against them. Comments from the junta made no reference to their plea.

The UN said Friday it was “deeply troubled” by the decision, calling it a “blatant violation to the right to life, liberty and security of person,” spokesman for the UN Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric said in a briefing, referring to an article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“The Secretary-General reiterates his calls for the respect of people’s rights to freedom of opinion and expression and also to drop all charges against those arrested on charges related to the exercise of their fundamental freedoms and rights,” Dujarric added.

Amnesty International said news of the resumption of executions is “shocking.” They called on authorities to “immediately” drop the plan and for the international community to step up intervention efforts.

“The death sentence has become one of many appalling ways the Myanmar military is attempting to sow fear among anyone who opposes its rule, and would add to the grave human rights violations, including lethal violence targeted at peaceful protesters and other civilians,” the organization said in a post published on its verified Twitter account.

Amnesty added that since the February 2021 coup in Myanmar, the organization recorded an “alarming” increase in the number of known death sentences in the country from at least one in 2020 to at least 86 in 2021.

An Amnesty from 2021 said that the last judicial execution in Myanmar known to have taken place was in 1988. There have been numerous death sentences in Myanmar since but they’ve usually been “commuted through mass pardons,” Amnesty says.

CNN has been unable to independently verify when the last execution by the state was carried out in Myanmar.

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