Myanmar executions

Published July 28, 2022

AS the international community is confronted with multiple crises, primarily the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the global financial downturn, Myanmar has largely slipped off the radar. However, the recent execution of four pro-democracy activists by the military junta that has ruled the country since it overthrew the Aung San Suu Kyi-led hybrid regime last year, has once again brought Myanmar into the global discussion. Among the executed men was an ex-lawmaker belonging to Ms Suu Kyi’s NLD party. The Myanmar regime claims the men committed “terror acts”, including targeting civilians and security forces. However, according to reports, the men were convicted in closed-door trials that were unfair. Amnesty International says over 100 people have received death sentences after similar trials. The condemnation from the international community has been swift, with mostly the Western bloc denouncing the killings while regional grouping Asean, of which Myanmar is a member, has also criticised the executions.

This paper — which opposes capital punishment — has always argued that the only way to bring stability to Myanmar is for the country to return to democratic governance. Unfortunately, the ruling generals think otherwise, and the executions are a chilling reminder to pro-democracy elements, as well as the world community, that the junta does not plan to restore democracy. However, foreign powers, especially Myanmar’s neighbours in Asean, must send a strong message to the military rulers that violence against civilians will not be tolerated, and that a time frame for the return of democracy must be finalised to avoid Myanmar’s international and regional isolation. If the junta sees that there are no repercussions after its violent tactics, it will only step up its repressive measures. Moreover, the international community must also press Myanmar to rehabilitate the Rohingya, hundreds of thousands of whom live in squalid camps in Bangladesh, or in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. Those responsible for large-scale violence against the community must be brought to justice, while the Rohingya should be allowed to return to their homes and live in peace with fundamental rights guaranteed.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2022

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