A senior US official has urged China to do more to contain Myanmar’s military after the execution of four people, saying ‘business cannot continue as usual with the junta’ as the killings have sparked controversy. widespread international condemnation.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a briefing: “It can be said that no country has the potential to influence the trajectory of Burma’s next steps more than the PRC. [People’s Republic of China]noting that the junta “has not faced the level of economic and in some cases diplomatic pressure that we would like to see”.
Price noted that extensive discussions have already taken place with China and India on how to put Myanmar back on the path to democracy.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who met with Myanmar activists in Bangkok this month, said he was confident the killings would not hamper the country’s democratic movement. “The regime’s show trials and executions are blatant attempts to extinguish democracy; these actions will never quell the spirit of the brave people of Burma,” Blinken said in a statement, using Myanmar’s former name.
The remarks came after China, a longtime ally of Myanmar’s military, declined to comment on the executions. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Beijing “always abides by the principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs”.
Monday’s execution of four prisoners, including a former MP from Aung San Suu Kyi’s party and a prominent democracy activist, was the first application of the death penalty in Myanmar in decades and heightened fears that other death sentences follow. Since the coup in February last year, 76 prisoners have been sentenced to death, including two children, according to advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) Burma. 41 other people were sentenced to death in absentia.
Global condemnation followed, with attention turning to what can be done to prevent further atrocities. A joint statement by the European Union, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Britain and the United States called the killings of “reprehensible acts of violence which further illustrate the regime’s disregard for human rights and the rule of law”. .
UN special rapporteur Thomas Andrews said he was “outraged and devastated” by the executions and called for a strong international response. “The widespread and systematic killings of protesters, the indiscriminate attacks on entire villages, and now the execution of opposition leaders, demand an immediate and firm response from United Nations member states,” he said.
Aung Myo Min, the human rights minister of Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG), who was trained in exile by elected politicians, representatives of ethnic minorities and activists, has dismissed claims that the men killed were involved in acts of violence, telling the Associated Press: “Punishing with death is a way of governing the public through fear.
The United Nations has also condemned the executions, with human rights chief Michelle Bachelet calling them “cruel and regressive”. A spokesman for António Guterres said the secretary general opposes the death penalty “in all circumstances” and called for the immediate release of all arbitrarily detained prisoners, including President Win Myint and counselor of State Aung San Suu Kyi.
Myanmar expert Richard Horsey of the International Crisis Group (ICG) said the executions were “an outrageous act. And that will create political shock waves, now and for a long time”.
Among the men executed were Phyo Zeya Thaw, a rapper and former lawmaker from Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, and prominent democracy activist Kyaw Min Yu, known as Jimmy. They were charged with conspiring to commit terrorist acts and were sentenced to death in January in closed trials.
The other two men executed – Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw – were accused of killing a woman they suspected of being a military informant in Yangon, according to Agence France-Presse.
Following reports of executions, protesters in Yangon held up a banner that read “we will never be afraid”. Another banner was hung on a bridge in Yangon with a warning that the junta must “stand ready to pay the blood debt”. Text below: “RIP Zeyar Thaw, Jimmy, Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura.”
Local media reported that the families of the men had gone to Insein prison in Yangon to demand to see the bodies of their loved ones. Prison officials refused to release the body to relatives, a source close to Kyaw Min Yu’s family said, despite prison rules stating he must do so unless there is a specific reason.
A total of 14,847 people have been arrested since the coup, while 11,759 are still in detention, according to AAPP Burma.