JAKARTA – Parliamentarians from Southeast Asia are alarmed by the announcement by the Myanmar junta that it will carry out the death sentences handed down to four political prisoners, including prominent former member of Parliament, Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw, and well-known pro-democracy activist, Kyaw Min Yu, better known as “Ko Jimmy”, both convicted on charges of terrorism.
These death sentences would be the first known judicial executions in the country since 1988, according to Amnesty International, which considers Myanmar as “Abolitionist in Practice”, as it retains the death penalty in law, but has not applied it for decades. Ever since the coup in February last year that ousted the democratically elected government, Myanmar has seen a drastic surge in the number of people sentenced to death with at least 86 people, including minors who were under 18 at the time.
“ASEAN and the international community must use every means at their disposal to prevent these executions from taking place. If they are carried out they will be nothing less than cold blooded political assassination. These executions would further contribute to prevent the already remote possibility of a sustainable political dialogue, as prescribed over one year ago in the Five-Point Consensus agreed by ASEAN member states and Min Aung Hlaing’s junta, which has not made any effort whatsoever in that direction,” said Charles Santiago, Member of Parliament from Malaysia, and APHR Chairperson.
The Myanmar military has killed at least 1,887 protesters since the coup, but it is attempting to give a veneer of legality to the execution of the four men. Yet it is abundantly clear that, as in dozens of sentences handed by military tribunals, there was no respect for fair trial rights.
ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) unreservedly supports the recent United Nations Secretary General’s statement reminding Myanmar’s military that the death sentences are a blatant violation of the right to life, liberty and security of the person, as per Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We also join him in emphasizing that the Declaration also enshrines the principles of equality before the law, the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, and all of the guarantees necessary for a person’s defense.
“This announcement should be viewed in the context of the increasingly brazen atrocities being committed by the Myanmar military in order to consolidate its power in the face of widespread popular resistance. The junta is killing, torturing and arbitrarily arresting Myanmar people with an impunity that owes a great deal to the failure of the international community to hold it accountable for its crimes,” said Santiago.
APHR calls on each and every member state of ASEAN, as well as its Dialogue Partners, to urgently demand an unconditional and immediate stay of execution and release of the four detainees by the self-declared State Administration Council. They must individually and collectively make a stand before it is too late, not only for these four, but for all those currently arbitrarily detained who should be immediately and unconditionally released.