Illegitimate court, illegitimate junta

June 18th, 2022  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  9 minute read
Featured image

“These death sentences, handed down by an illegitimate court of an illegitimate junta, are a vile attempt at instilling fear amongst the people of Myanmar.”

The Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, and Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Morris Tidball-Binz

The situation for those detained inside Myanmar’s prisons is worsening as the illegal military rapidly scales up their persecution of political prisoners and those within the Spring Revolution. Last week, details emerged of two separate instances of killings within the confines of Obo Prison in Mandalay and Hpa-an Prison in Karen State. Meanwhile, a junta controlled court unlawfully issued execution orders for prominent political activists Ko Jimmy (aka Kyaw Min Yu) and Phyo Zaya Thaw, as well as Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw – attracting wide condemnation from civil society and the international community. It is clear that the fragile state of the rule of law in Myanmar completely disintegrated in the aftermath of the military’s attempted coup d’état, with the judiciary doing the bidding of the junta – including prosecuting political activists on fabricated charges, issuing draconian sentences and harassing lawyers.

Myanmar civil society and international actors alike have roundly condemned the junta’s planned execution of writer and 88 Generation student leader Ko Jimmy, and National League for Democracy (NLD) parliamentarian Phyo Zaya Thaw for unfounded allegations of terrorism. Nearly 200 Myanmar and international organizations called the trials of Ko Jimmy and Phyo Zaya Thaw ‘unfair’, as these men were unable to defend themselves or have legal counsel. Even with legal counsel, it is beyond doubt that they would still face same unfair trial conditions under this terrorist military conrol. Additionally, the junta unlawfully amended the Counterterrorism law, shifting the burden of proof onto the accused – a denial of the most basic of fair trial rights. The junta’s aim is to make an example of these men, to strike fear among the general public, particularly the pro-democracy movement but also to use the levers of the judiciary to have the veneer of “justice”. The Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, and Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Morris Tidball-Binz said in response to the execution orders that, “These death sentences, handed down by an illegitimate court of an illegitimate junta, are a vile attempt at instilling fear amongst the people of Myanmar.” These men are four of the 114 people, including two children, who have been sentenced to death since 1 February, 2021.

While some defendants are permitted to have a lawyer, this right is not guaranteed and the lawyer is often at risk of judicial harassment. Prominent lawyer, Ywet Nu Aung, was arrested and slapped with fabricated charges under the Counterterrorism Law in April following a hearing at Obo Prison for her client, Mandalay Chief Minister and Vice-Chair of the NLD, Dr. Zaw Myint Muang. Another Mandalay lawyer, Phyu Phyu Khaing, committed suicide after the junta abducted her family and tortured them, after being unable to find and arrest Phyu Phyu Khaing for her involvement in the pro-democracy movement.

While the proposed executions of political activists Ko Jimmy and Phyo Zaya Thaw, as well Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw, deserve the outpouring of condemnations from the international community they received, these execution orders are emblematic of the junta’s wider terror campaign. Since the attempted coup, the military junta has utilized a wide variety of methods to kill pro-democracy activists, Civil Disobedience Movement members, National League for Democracy members, Strike Committee members and civil society – killing at least 1,958 people. The junta has tortured, murdered, shot on sight, burned people alive, decapitated civilians, conducted lethal airstrikes, and perpetrated massacres, all without fear of repercussions and with complete impunity. In the early days of the attempted coup, the military junta would kill political activists or civilians, desecrate the bodies to remove evidence of murder and dump the bodies back with their families, often contributing their death to COVID-19 or heart attack. In some cases, the junta would extort money from the families in exchange for the body of their loved ones.

On 8 June, in a sadistic act, junta troops shot dead at least six people who were IDPs at Myat Saw Nyi Naung Monastery, Myinmu Township, Sagaing Region – telling 30 IDPs to run before opening fire, killing them for sport. The junta also burned IDPs’ motorcycles and 500 sacks of rice, intended to sustain IDPs who fled to the monastery after the junta attacked their village. The lack of justice and accountability for these crimes, and decades of human rights abuses – particularly against ethnic communities – has only served to embolden the Myanmar military to continue to commit such acts with blanket impunity that they have enjoyed for decades.

For those inside Myanmar’s prisons, the situation is equally as horrific. Prisons are overcrowded, unsanitary, and unliveable. Prisoners are subject to routine violence by guards, physical and psychological torture, sexual and gender-based violence and sever interrogation. On 5 June, two political prisoners were beaten to death and 13 others injured by guards inside Obo Prison, Mandalay. On 6 June, at least two political detainees were killed at Hpa-An Prison, Karen State, after prisoners staged a sit-in, protesting the mixing of political prisoners and regular prisoners. Prisoners were attacked with slingshots and sharpened bamboo sticks. In April at Sagaing Region’s Monywa Prison, junta troops stormed the prison during a protest, removed the prison staff, killed one prisoner and tortured others. In the notorious Insein Prison in Yangon, 10 prisoners were beaten for conducting a hunger strike to protest the illegal execution orders for Ko Jimmy, Phyo Zaya Thaw, Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw. In addition, 11 prisoners were beaten after complaining about forced labor conditions – inmates have been forced to work 12 hour days farming. As a collective punishment for another protest, water and electricity was cut off to the women’s ward of the prison, with inmates forced to drink toilet water.

The international community needs to wake up and realize that all atrocities and human rights violations committed by the junta must garner the same attention that Ko Jimmy and Phyo Zaya Thaw’s cases have drawn. Statements, like those from the French Embassy in Yangon and the spokesperson for the United Nations Secretary-General are welcomed, but must be followed by concrete and coordinated actions against the junta – including targeted sanctions on the junta’s leadership, a global arms embargo, sanctions on jet fuel supplies to the junta, and targeted sanctions on military businesses and cronies. For far too long the international community and UN has sat on its hands while the Myanmar military persecuted political prisoners, activists, civilians and ethnic communities, including the Rohingya. Inaction in the face of grave human rights violations and atrocities is a choice. The international community and UN must now choose to fully support the Spring Revolution, the NUG and civil society, through meaningful actions against the murderous junta. This is the only way to protect the people.


[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

Resources from the past week


Statements and Press Releases

International Community and Concerned Organizations Call for Ending 4 Burmese Activists Executions

By 199 International and Myanmar Organizations

Malaysia: Two years on, still no protection & accountability for Rohingya HRD Zafar Ahmad from harassment and threats

By 65 International and Civil Society Organizations

UN Experts join civil society in condemning Myanmar military’s “digital dictatorship” and call for Member State action

By Access Now

Southeast Asian MPs alarmed by planned executions of four Myanmar political prisoners

By ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights

Press Release: Regarding Stated Execution of 4 Sentenced to Death Political Prisoners

By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

Professor Sean Turnell Trial

By Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs

An appeal from FoodPanda Riders from all over Myanmar to Cusumers

By Foodpanda Riders Myanmar

Foodpanda Riders များ၏တောင်းဆိုချက်နဲ့ ပါတ်သက်၍ ကုမ္ပဏီမှ ဖြေရှင်းဆောင်ရွက်ရန် အသိပေးထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By Foodpanda Riders

Myanmar: Junta Vows to Enforce Death Sentences

By Human Rights Watch

Myanmar: UN experts sound alarm over junta’s decision to enforce death sentences

By Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Myanmar: UN experts condemn military’s “digital dictatorship”

By Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Planned Executions Announced by the Illegal Military Junta Would Amount to Summary Executions

By Special Advisory Council for Myanmar

Statement by Mr. Ramanathan Balakrishnan, UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator a.i., on the killing of WHO staff member

By United Nations Myanmar



ACLED Regional Overview – East Asia Pacific (28 May – 3 June 2022)

By Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project

A Popular Uprising Against the Regime in Northern Burma

By Free Burma Rangers

Denied and Deprived: Local communities confronting the humanitarian crisis and protection challenges in Southeast Burma

By Karen Human Rights Group

May 23-June 5, 2022 Summary of SAC human rights violations in Karenni State and Pekhon Township

By Karenni Civil Society Network

မေလ ၂၃ ရက်မှ ဇွန်လ ၅ ရက် ၂၀၂၂ ခုနှစ် ကရင်နီပြည်နယ်နှင့် ဖယ်ခုံမြို့နယ် အတွင်း စစ်ကောင်စီ၏ ချိုးဖောက်မှုများ အကျဉ်း

By Karenni Civil Society Network

Myanmar Emergency Update (as of 1 June 2022)

By United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

WFP Myanmar Situation Report (May 2022)

By World Food Programme

Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”