death penalty, the latest tactic of the murderous regime of the military junta

Since the 2021 coup, Myanmar’s moratorium on the death penalty has been a myth. The junta has routinely targeted civilians for extrajudicial executions, including using army snipers to callously eliminate peaceful protesters. There have also been prisoner killings, with many of those killed reportedly showing signs of torture on their bodies. What changed this week was that the board admitted the deliberate killing of prisoners.

Four prisoners, representing different lines of resistance against the coup, were executed in Yangon’s Insein Prison, breaking a decades-old taboo against capital punishment. None had received anything resembling a fair trial, instead facing a military court where they were denied legal representation. In practice, his “guilt” was predetermined by a Myanmar army, known as the Tatmadaw, which views active opposition to its rule as akin to terrorism.

The board’s choice of victims was guaranteed to provoke internal outrage. Opposed to the military government and accused of terrorism, Kyaw Min Yu, better known as Ko Jimmy, was a household name in Myanmar, first rising to fame as a “generation of ’88” student leader who nearly overthrew a previous military regime. in the 1988 uprising.

Phyo Zeya Thaw, a highly popular rapper and hip-hop artist who co-founded the youth activist group Generation Wave, was also a former lawmaker close to Aung San Suu Kyi. He was also charged with terrorism. Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw were accused of killing a Tatmadaw informant.

Executed: Generation 88 student leader Kyaw Min Yu, also known as Ko Jimmy, in Yangon in 2006.

violence as a tactic

The use of ferocious violence to cow resistance to its rule has long been a key strategy of the Tatmadaw, particularly among the country’s ethnic and religious minority communities. The ongoing popular resistance to its 2021 coup, the growth of the People’s Defense Force militias, rising defections, and recruitment shortages have weakened the Tatmadaw and prompted the junta chiefs to pursue more aggressive tactics. familiar to minorities like the Rohingya in the Buddhist heartland of the country. There has been a marked increase in military brutality towards members of Myanmar’s Buddhist majority.

The Tatmadaw’s counter-insurgency approach, often described as “mopping-up operations”, stems from its “Four Cuts” strategy aimed at denying opponents access to food, funds, new recruits and intelligence. Resembling total war, scorched-earth tactics and the targeting of civilians for collective punishment are a routine part of these operations. This is how the Tatmadaw described its forced deportation of the Rohingya Muslim community in 2017

Read more: ‘My two daughters were shot in front of me’: Rohingya tell harrowing stories of loss and forced migration

Now the board is using similar tactics across the country. Since the coup, military atrocities have been widespread and often horrific. These have included air strikes on rural villages and displacement camps in retaliation for nearby anti-coup activity, driving a truck into a crowd of peaceful protesters, and even burning civilians fleeing the violence alive. Amnesty International described the Tatmadaw airstrikes against civilians as “collective punishment” and “a new wave of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity”.

Phyo Zeya Thaw in 2016 at the Union Parliament in Naypyitaw in 2016, where she was a member of the National League for Democracy.
Phyo Zeya Thaw, a rap star and member of parliament for the National League of Democracy, was one of four men executed by the military junta;

Tom Andrews, the UN special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, painted a bleak picture: “Junta forces have killed at least 1,600 civilians and displaced more than 500,000. Half of the population has fallen into poverty. The World Health Organization now projects that there will be more than 47,000 preventable deaths in Myanmar this year. Thirteen million people face food insecurity.” Recent UN data indicates that more than 857,000 have been displaced by the violence since the coup was launched.

systematic murders

Even the executions of jailed anti-coup leaders reflect a disturbing aspect of the genocide against the Rohingya: the systematic killing of community leaders to undermine the group’s cohesion and capacity and hasten its destruction. Rohingya genocide survivors described how in 2017, community leaders and educated Rohingya were singled out for killing by soldiers, and it appears the junta has taken the same approach towards anti-coup activists targeting key leaders.

Across Myanmar and around the world, the response to the executions, Myanmar’s latest high-profile atrocity, may not be what coup leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing expected. Rather than quell opposition to military rule, this escalation has highlighted the vulnerability of the junta, highlighting its inability to entrench its rule a year and a half after launching an unpopular coup.

The night of the killings, Yangon was filled with the sounds of protesters banging on pots and pans, a traditional way of driving out evil spirits that has become a symbol of resistance against the coup. Instead of being intimidated by the murder of her son Phyo Zeya Thaw, Daw Khin Win Tin bravely described her pride in having sacrificed her life for her country.

The international response has been characterized by almost universal condemnation. Such was the outrage over the executions, even as former junta supporters China and Russia sided with US demands to end “business as usual” and accepted a UN Security Council statement. UN condemning the executions.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah indicated he had run out of patience with the junta, describing the executions as “a crime against humanity and clearly shows that the junta is flouting” the Five Point Consensus agreed by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This suggests that Malaysia will strongly press ASEAN to take a firmer hand with the Myanmar junta. They need to.

As a regional body, ASEAN’s participation in and agreement to the Five Point Consensus has provided a shield for the board, giving world powers like the US shifts in approach.

The United States has indicated that all options are now on the table. This should include steps that have the potential to contribute to regime change in Myanmar, such as sanctions on gas revenues and an arms embargo. Otherwise, the UN Security Council should prepare to write many more condemning statements because the junta has given no indication that words will force it to change its ways.

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