Human rights groups have noted since a junta official confirmed in early June that the death sentences on the men would be carried out, that the number of people on death row has risen sharply to 114 with fears that the military regime in Nay Pyi Taw is using the death penalty and Monday’s executions as a way to intimidate the public which overwhelmingly supports the ongoing violent resistance to its rule being waged by the armed forces of the legitimate government of the country formed from elected MPs, the National Unity Government (NUG).

Four men including two pro-democracy activists were executed by hanging at the notorious Insein Prison in Yangon on Monday as the reviled and illegal Myanmar junta is now using the hangman as well as the repressive Tatmadaw military to intimidate and coerce its population into submission following a coup on February 1st 2021 which has never been accepted by the public. News of the executions was confirmed by Myanmar’s oldest English-speaking newspaper, the Global New Light, and came after a chilling official announcement in early June that the four men, including two who murdered a junta informer, a former MP and a popular veteran activist who spoke out against the junta regime, had exhausted all legal avenues and would be put to death. The news has brought condemnation and outrage from human rights groups and international agencies throughout the world with one human rights organisation noting a rise of prisoners to 114 currently on death row in the country torn by a vicious civil war, many of whom, it is now feared may meet the same fate.

The illegal junta regime of General Min Aung Hlaing executed four men at Yangon’s notorious Insein Prison on Monday including 41-year-old former MP and hip hop pioneer Phyo Zeya Thaw (right) and veteran political activist ‘Ko Jimmy’ or Kyaw Min Yu (left). Both men were convicted by military tribunals for their part in activities supporting the ongoing revolution against the junta which took power in a 2021 coup with Mr Phyo Zeya Thaw accused of taking part in an attack on a train in the country which saw five policemen killed.

Myanmar’s oldest English newspaper, on Monday, the Global New Light, confirmed the shocking news from Yangon’s notorious Insein Prison that four political prisoners had been hanged by the country’s increasingly isolated and brutal junta regime led by General Min Aung Hlaing.

The four men executed at the prison on Monday included former MP, 41-year-old Phyo Zeya Thaw who was elected to parliament for the National League for Democracy in the 2015 General Election and Kyaw Min Yu also known as Ko Jimmy, a veteran political activist, writer and former political prisoner who played an active role in the 1988 uprising in Myanmar which was brutally suppressed by the former junta.

United Nations representative expresses both sadness and anger at the junta’s actions and ‘violations’

On Monday, Mr Tom Andrews, the UN Special rapporteur to Myanmar, expressed his sadness and anger at the actions of the junta in carrying out the executions.

Two other men who went to the gallows with the two political activists had been convicted by a military tribunal of the murder of a woman in Yangon last year who was believed to have been an informer in the pay of the hated junta.

They have been named as La Mo Aung and Aung Tura Zaw.

‘My heart goes to the families of these people. Best friends, friends and people who love them and with all the people of Myanmar. Three of the convicts were tried, convicted and convicted by a military court without the right to file an appeal. It is also reported that there was no legal counsel. These are violations of international human rights law,’ he told the media.

Fate of the men made clear in June

The fate of the four men appeared ominous at the beginning of June when a government spokesman, Mr Zaw Min Tun, made a chilling announcement that the four men had exhausted any possible legal avenues or appeals and would be executed in due course.

‘They continued the legal process of appealing and sending a request letter for the amendment of the sentence,’ Mr Zaw Min Tun explained at the time. ‘But the court rejected their appeal and request. There is no other step after that.’ 

Sign that junta may be preparing to get tough as it threatens to hang four convicted over the uprising

He said that the men ‘were sentenced to death and will be hanged according to prison procedures’ echoing the phraseology used in Monday’s confirmation that the hangings had been carried out.

The June announcement received a sharp rebuke from the office of UN Secretary-general António Guterres.

His spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, described the sentences imposed as ‘a blatant violation to the right to life, liberty and security of person.’

‘The Secretary-General considers that the death penalty cannot be reconciled with full respect for the right to life,’ Mr Dujarric told reporters. ‘Abolition is necessary and desirable for the enhancement of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights.’

Oldest English-speaking newspaper in Yangon broke the dark news accusing the men of ‘brutal and inhumane terror acts’ in what is now all-out civil war

On Monday, the Global New Light newspaper in Myanmar, first published in 1964 and the oldest English language journal, told readers that the men had been executed for ‘brutal and inhumane terror acts’.

It is reported that Kyaw Min Yu, who was arrested in October 2021 was sentenced to death for his support of the current revolutionary movement against the junta which is widespread throughout Myanmar and is being supported by ethnic militias, who have waged war against the military for decades, in addition to the People’s Defence Armed Forces (PDF), the growing armed forces of the National Unity Government (NUG).

Mr Phyo Zeya Thaw, a pioneer hip-hop artist in Myanmar as well as a lawmaker, was arrested in November 2021.

He was identified and accused by the regime of taking part in an armed attack on a railway train in August last year during which 5 policemen were killed.

The situation comes as growing numbers of the population within Myanmar, much the same as the international community, refuse to accept the legitimacy of the military government which seized power in a coup and rules remotely from an artificially created capital in Nay Pyi Taw.

Officers within the police and even higher ranks of the Tatmadaw deserting the junta’s security forces

There are also credible intelligence of defections from both the police forces in the strife-ridden country and within the army ranks itself with credible reports that the ability of the junta to put forces on the ground has been severely weakened and that even officers within the ranks are leaving the country in clandestine operations to defect rather than serve as an instrument of repression.

The civil war broke out in Myanmar not long after the February 1st coup last year in which the military junta under the despotic leadership of General Min Aung Hlaing seized power and arrested scores of people in overnight raids including the country’s elected and de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate who, among others in her government, has since been tried and convicted on trumped up criminal charges.

She is currently facing up to 150 years in prison if convicted on all the charges that have been brought against her by junta prosecutors.

The military seized power last year after the National League for Democracy of Aung San Suu Kyi managed to gain further seats in parliament in a General Election held peacefully in November 2020.

Coup on February 1st 2021 brought an end to nearly 10 years of an experiment with democracy which saw the National League for Democracy gain more power

This followed ten years of democracy and economic boom up to that point from 2011.

The ruling National League for Democracy found itself in a position to challenge or potentially limit the involvement and influence of the military in Myanmar’s new government and this is believed to have led the military to claim that the election was flawed and the results corrupted.

The military in Myanmar, known as the Tatmadaw, ruled the country with an iron fist from 1962 until 2011 when it first began to experiment with democratic rule in an attempt to revive the country’s ailing and impoverished economy from international sanctions and isolation.

During that period, Aung San Suu Kyi was imprisoned multiple times at Insein Prison where Monday’s executions took place in 2003, 2007 and again in 2009.

Insein prison notorious in Myanmar for inhuman, degrading treatment of prisoners including torture

The prison has long been known and feared as a place of inhuman and degrading treatment of political prisoners including the widespread use of torture through beatings with iron bars and the use of dogs to terrify prisoners, stripped and made to crawl over gravel paths.

There are now fears that the military regime is using the spectre of the hangman to spread terror within the country to cow the civilian population for supporting the growing revolution which is gaining momentum and weakening its hold on power.

The regime, which has never been accepted by the public in Myanmar, is only surviving through economic support from Communist China and military support from that country and Russia. 

Thailand one of the few countries offering tacit support to Myanmar’s junta shunned worldwide

Most ASEAN countries have also turned their backs on Nay Pyi Taw with some exceptions such as Thailand and Cambodia with Thai business enterprises having significant investments in the country’s neighbour to the west and fears in Bangkok that further destabilisation may spill over into its western provinces.

This is what happened last month when intense fighting broke out near Myanmar’s border near Tak province in Thailand which saw a Mig military jet, operated by Myanmar’s junta, breach Thailand’s airspace, refugees flowing across the border and sporadic damage to property in the kingdom over the course of 4 to 5 days.

Intensive clashes in Myanmar near Tak ease leaving locals near the border rattled and on guard

Human Rights Watch, on Monday, warned that there are now 114 people on death row in Myanmar with fears that further executions may be planned by the regime in an effort to reassert its waning authority.

Monday’s executions were the first in the country since 1988.

Monday’s executions are a sign of weakness and desperation by a regime that cannot win the civil war

Many observers view the actions of the junta, in carrying out the executions on Monday, as a sign of its weakness and desperation as it increasingly faces an unwinnable civil war.

Even the reviled regime’s closest ally, China, has called on it to open dialogue with the National Unity Government (NUG) during a visit in early July by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi for a minor regional conference in early July involving Laos, Thailand and Cambodia, which was exploited for PR purposes, to give the impression of international respectability and an illusion of stability to what most countries in the world regard as a country ruled by an illegal regime which has even been denied participation at recent ASEAN summits since its brutal campaign of repression against its own population began to escalate.

Reporting from Myanmar is difficult with one American organisation claiming that 12,000 people died in the conflict just up to February 1st this year

The instability in Myanmar and the nature of the regime there have meant that media coverage of the war is inadequate as conditions there are dangerous and not satisfactory.

A second war raging in Myanmar unlike anything seen since World War Two with over 12,000 dead

Earlier this year, the BBC reported that a credible American organisation, Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), had determined that up to February 1st this year, at least 12,000 people had died in warfare including military and guerilla attacks between the Tatmadaw and forces which oppose the military junta.

The figure was compiled from an array of sources accessed by the organisation including human rights groups.

It included all deaths caused as a result of what is an escalating conflict that has become an all-out civil war.

Reuters confirms 1,500 killed in street protests alone over the first year of the conflict after the coup

Another estimate, by Reuters, focused on protests, found that 1,500 people had been killed in street activities alone in the initial year of the revolution which does not include deaths caused by massacres by security forces only some of which are documented and attacks by forces of the National Unity Government (NUG) and battled hardened ethnic militias on junta controlled targets including military strongholds.

For instance, in the recent upsurge of violence near Tak province, in one area, Karen state, the ethnic Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) estimated that at least 80 Tatmadaw personnel were killed in the rebel group’s offensive during which it overran a government military stronghold but later retreated amid a massive air assault in which at least 6 civilians were reported as killed.

Put an end to any prospect of dialogue for now

These sorts of attacks are now ongoing in Myanmar with the People’s Defence Armed Forces (PDF) and several ethnic regional armies fighting both a ground battle against the military whose ranks are being decimated amid an increasingly widespread guerilla war which the government cannot ultimately win due to an unprecedented resolve among the population and across all age groups.

Monday’s executions have, for the foreseeable future, put an end to any talk of negotiations between the junta authorities and the legitimate government of Myanmar represented by the National Unity Government (NUG).

Executions create political shockwaves that will be recalled ‘for a long time to come’ says peace group

The executions have begun to cause outrage throughout the civilised world with Richard Horsey of the international peace organisation and think tank, International Crisis Group (ICG), describing the development on Monday as ‘an outrageous act. And one that will create political shockwaves, now and for a long time to come.’

Myanmar voted in support of the resolution calling for the restoration of democracy, censuring the junta

On Monday, as the news emerged, it was reported that relatives of the family who received no notice, waited outside the feared prison in an effort to retrieve the bodies of the victims in what is being seen internationally as an attempt by the beleaguered military junta to intimidate the local population in Myanmar as it finds itself fighting a losing battle against a growing revolution being led by the National Unity Government (NUG).

This entity is recognised by the United Nations as the legitimate government of Myanmar having been formed by MPs elected in the November 2020 General Election.

The legitimate government is dominated by the country’s leading political party, the National League for Democracy, which won the 2020 poll in a landslide and is acknowledged by Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations, Kyaw Moe Tun.

Join the Thai News forum, follow Thai Examiner on Facebook here
Receive all our stories as they come out on Telegram here
Follow Thai Examiner here

Further reading:

Intensive clashes in Myanmar near Tak ease leaving locals near the border rattled and on guard

A second war raging in Myanmar unlike anything seen since World War Two with over 12,000 dead

Thailand calls for Myanmar talks as besieged coup leader is barred from the ASEAN summit in Brunei

Thailand abstains as the UN calls for Myanmar’s return to democracy and a junta arms embargo to quell conflict

FM Don to attend Myanmar ASEAN summit with high stakes for Thailand as civil war there looms large

Myanmar facing all out revolution as the bloody struggle between the army and the public spirals out of control

Crisis in Myanmar threatens to escalate as Thai authorities monitor the situation on a daily basis

Threat to Thailand from the encroaching dragon of the North as Chinese factories in Myanmar burn

Coup boss writes to Prayut for support as UK man with Chinese partner flees troubled Myanmar

Small bomb devices explode outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok as anti-coup protests grow in Yangon

Australian arrested in Myanmar as coup takes on significance for US Chinese rivalry in the region

Military coup in Myanmar. Aung San Suu Kyi held with scores of leading political figures arrested by troops

Myanmar closer to civil war as ‘unity’ government announces first step to a ‘Federal Union Army’ to fight junta