When a neighbour slips into civil war !

The south-east Asian nation with a nearly 60 million multi-ethnic populace, which is adjacent to the north-eastern region, has raised apprehension that the military dictators will follow more executions in the coming days
When a neighbour slips into civil war ! (By Nava Thakuria)
When a neighbour slips into civil war ! (By Nava Thakuria)

By Nava Thakuria

(The author is a northeast India-based journalist)

India’s restive eastern neighbour has drawn the global media attention, but once again for a wrong reason. Myanmar (also called Burma and Brahmadesh), which is already isolated by the international community for its oppressive military regime, witnessed the execution of four Burmese nationals including two prominent political dissidents to the dictatorial administration in Naypietaw. The south-east Asian nation with a nearly 60 million multi-ethnic populace, which is adjacent to the north-eastern region, has raised apprehension that the military dictators will follow more executions in the coming days.

The military run newspaper titled Global New Light of Myanmar on last Monday reported that the authority had implemented the capital punishments to Phyo Zeyar Thaw (41-year-old former National League for Democracy lawmaker) and 1988 pro-democracy uprising activist Kyaw Min Yu (53 years, popularly known as Ko Jimmy) under the conviction of terrorism charges along with Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw (both were accused of murdering a military informer).

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They all were arrested last year and tried by the ‘below international standards’ military court where all of them were sentenced to death under the country’s counterterrorism laws. All of them were hanged till death at Insein prison of Yangon (formerly Rangoon) probably on Saturday (the authority has not specified the time and date till now).

Even the families were not informed about the execution in advance and shockingly the dead bodies were not handed over to them for necessary Buddhist rituals. “It is the first known execution carried out by the present military regime under the guidance of senior general Min Aung Hlaing who grabbed the political power with a coup on 1 February 2021 ousting the democratically elected Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD government,” said a Yangon-based resident, who wanted anonymity while interacting and added that Myanmar earlier witnessed the official execution of ethnic Chin student leader Salai Tin Maung Oo (by the then dictator General Ne Win) at the same prison in 1976. He speculated more violence and bloodshed in Myanmar under the callous regime in the coming days.

The prejudiced military court has sentenced to death over 100 people (most of them are political activists) for their aggressive anti-junta roles since last year’s coup and among them 75 (including two minors) languished in various prisons of Myanmar. Moreover, nearly 14,000 people remain behind the bars for their anti-junta acts (read allegations of supporting terrorism against the regime) in different parts of the under-developed country.

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With it, the ruthless junta continues targeting the common Burmese, who dared to oppose the militaries and killed over 2,100 pro-democracy activists, political party workers and resistance group members through their nationwide crackdown since last year’s coup. More than 100 male & female young people died due to the military aggression. In a chaotic socio-political situation, almost like a civil war, hundreds of villages have been burnt down by the soldiers compelling one million people to leave their places for taking shelter in hideouts (including in foreign lands of Thailand, Bangladesh, India, etc).

A large number of close family members and relatives of security personnel also lost their lives in retaliatory violence by the anti-junta people’s defence force. Many anti-coup demonstrators and supporters of the National Unity Government (formed by the elected Parliamentarians) are being detained in unknown locations with no access to their family members. The overcrowded prisons with no basic facilities have slowly turned into hells for the inmates. The military council has also arrested over 130 media persons and among them 25 Burmese journalists are still under its custody.

“Extremely saddened and outraged to receive news of the execution of four prisoners including Ko Jimmy and Phyo Zeyar Thaw,” said a statement issued by the NUG, adding that ‘those executed were martyred for their commitment to a free and democratic Myanmar’. It asserted that the pro-democracy revolution would not be over until Min Aung Hlaing faces justice. NLD, which enjoyed a landslide victory in 2020 national elections under the leadership of Suu Kyi (who is presently under solitary confinement), stated that it was baffling to hear the news.

The UN human rights body, which called on the military regime to refrain from the declared execution, stated that the ‘cruel and regressive step’ was an extension of the military's ongoing repressive campaign against its own people. Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, commented, “I am dismayed that despite appeals from across the world, the military conducted these executions with no regard for human rights.”

“I’m outraged and devastated at the news… as Myanmar patriots and champions of human rights & democracy were executed. My heart goes out to their families, friends and loved ones and indeed all the people of Myanmar who are victims of the junta’s escalating atrocities,” said Tom Andrews, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, adding that the victims ‘were tried, convicted and sentenced by a military tribunal without the right of appeal and reportedly without legal counsel, in violation of international human rights law.’

Human Rights Watch, which opposes capital punishment in all countries and under any circumstance, termed the execution an act of ‘utter cruelty’, which was carried out following ‘grossly unjust and politically motivated military trials’. HRW’s acting Asia director Elaine Pearson expressed anger that the horrific news was ‘compounded by the junta’s failure to notify the men’s families, who learned about the executions through the junta’s media reports’. The junta’s barbarity and callous disregard for human life aims to chill the anti-coup protest movement, added Pearson, urging the international governments to demand an immediate release of all political prisoners.

Southeast Asian MPs’ forum also denounced the executions by the unlawful military junta. Terming it as ‘an act of judicial barbarism’, the lawmaker's organization commented that these executions are nothing but appalling acts of evil committed by an evil junta that has shown no qualms about waging a war against the Myanmar population in order to cement its power. The global community and all ASEAN members in particular should take these cold-blooded assassinations as yet another wake up call on the true nature of the regime of terror that the Myanmar military is attempting to impose in the country, said Eva Sundari, a former Parliamentarian of Indonesia.

Arakan Army, a Rakhine armed outfit- which has been fighting the Burmese soldiers for a sovereign country of Myanmar- also condemned the military’s execution of four prisoners. In a statement issued to Rakhine media outlets, the ethnic organization asserted that it shocked the entire Myanmar people. The organization asserted that the brutal act destroyed all the efforts put by the international community, neighboring countries and ASEAN members for peace and reconciliation in Myanmar.

Facing a wave of criticisms for the inaction to pursue with the military rulers of Myanmar, a member country, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) also stated that it is extremely troubled and deeply saddened by the executions. Its rotating chair (Hun Sen, prime minister of Cambodia) said in a statement, “The implementation of the death sentences just a week before the 55th ASEAN ministerial meeting is highly reprehensible”, adding that this shows the junta's gross lack of will for the peace initiatives.

New Delhi has also expressed deep concern over the execution of political prisoners in Myanmar and pointed out that it supports the initiatives to bring back democracy and stability to the neighbouring country, which continues to witness civil unrest and widespread fighting since last year’s coup. As a responsible neighbor, India always highlights the need for a peaceful resolution to various issues so that the rule of law and democratic process can be upheld in Myanmar.

But the ruling military council has not repented for the action, rather it defended the execution of pro-democracy activists as ‘justice for the people’ of Myanmar, even though various international bodies asked them not to proceed for the sack of ongoing reconciliation with the military dictators. The junta spokesperson ZawMin Tun tried to establish that those executed were not democracy activists (but criminals). So they were given punishments following a legal process, he added.

People of northeastern States like Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland face immediate implications because of Myanmar turmoil as they enjoy historical legacies with various tribes of the country and more precisely many refugees start arriving in their places. Mizoram has been supporting nearly 80,000 Chin (Burmese) refugees since long back.

Many of their young people are either enrolled in various educational institutions or engaged in private works. Some are even enjoying different government facilities secretly. A sizable number of Burmese refugees are also taking shelter in other States as well.

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