The activist Kyaw Min Yu, known as “Ko Jimmy,” and the opposition lawmaker Phyo Zeya Thaw were sentenced to death on January 21 by a military tribunal under Myanmar’s overbroad Counterterrorism Law of 2014.
The United Nations (UN), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and concerned governments should press the junta to immediately release all those wrongfully imprisoned, including Phyo Zeya Thaw and Ko Jimmy, and commute all death sentences.
“Myanmar military courts’ disregard of basic rights was evident in the farcical trials and death sentences of Phyo Zeya Thaw and Ko Jimmy,” said Manny Maung, Myanmar researcher at Human Rights Watch. “These secretive tribunals with their lightning convictions are aimed at chilling any dissent against the military junta.”
A junta spokesperson, Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, announced that the two men would be “hanged according to prison procedures,” but said that no date had been set for the executions. Two other men, Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw, who were convicted for killing an alleged military informant, would also be hanged, the spokesperson said.
Phyo Zeya Thaw and Ko Jimmy were arrested in townships in which the junta has declared martial law. In imposing martial law, the junta transferred all executive and judicial authority to the head of the relevant regional military command, and instituted the death penalty as a possible sentence for 23 crimes, the majority of which are not capital crimes in civilian courts.
“Military tribunals have issued death sentences against defendants in rushed and closed legal proceedings, depriving those charged of their basic fair trial rights. Those on trial before military tribunals face almost certain conviction regardless of the available evidence against them,” the rights group said.
The HRE added that there is no scrutiny of the trials by the public or the international community. Myanmar security forces have subjected many people arrested since the coup to torture and other ill-treatment, including frequent beatings.
The UN spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, said he was “deeply troubled” by the military’s decision to proceed with the executions of political dissidents. “This is a blatant violation of the right to life, liberty, and security of person as per Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” he said.
Since the February 2021 coup, junta security forces have carried out mass killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, and indiscriminate attacks on civilians that amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes.