Asia Burma military junta to execute two top political prisoners

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    Burma’s military junta on Friday announced the first judicial executions since 1990, including that of a former member of former leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party and a well-known pro-democracy activist, both convicted of terrorism, a government spokesman said.

    Phyo Zeya Thaw, a former MP, and pro-democracy activist Kyaw Min Yu, nicknamed ‘Ko Jimmy’, “were sentenced to hang according to criminal proceedings,” said a spokesman for the junta, Zaw Min Tun. After taking power last year, the Burmese military junta sentenced dozens of people mobilized against the coup to death, as part of a fierce crackdown on protests. But Burma had not executed anyone in more than 30 years.

    Phyo Zeya Thaw, a former member of the National League for Democracy (NLD), Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, was arrested in November and sentenced in January for breaking anti-terrorism laws. Elected to Parliament by the NLD in 2015, he is accused of organizing several attacks against regime forces after the coup, including an attack on a commuter train in Rangoon in August that killed five policemen.

    The well-known pro-democracy activist ‘Ko Jimmy’ has received the same sentence. He became famous during the 1988 student revolts against the former military junta and has been sentenced to death for “inciting rebellion” with his social media posts. The convicted “continued the criminal proceedings and appealed, sending a letter to modify the sentence”, but “the court rejected those appeals and there is no further stage”, added Zaw Min Tun.

    Two other men, convicted of killing a woman they accused of being a junta informer, will also be executed. At the moment, no dates have been set for the executions, explained the spokesman for the board. The decision to “execute two prominent political leaders is adding fuel to the fire of popular anti-military resistance in the country,” said the deputy director of the NGO Human Rights Watch, Phil Robertson.

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