Listen to Today's Edition
Myanmar’s military junta executed four pro-democracy activists this week in an attempt to deter protestors in the wake of last year’s coup, the New York Times reported.
Junta officials said Monday the four individuals were hanged over the weekend in what were the first executions in the country in 30 years. The government had accused the victims of “brutal and inhumane terror acts” and sentenced them to death earlier this year.
The defendants had denied the charges and tried to appeal but the court rejected it.
The executed included popular activist Kyaw Min Yu and Phyo Zeya Thaw, a hip-hop-artist-turned-politician and ally of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Foreign leaders and international organizations had urged the junta to halt the executions, with the United Nations calling the death sentences “a vile attempt at instilling fear among the people of Myanmar.”
Meanwhile, opposition politicians and human rights groups swiftly condemned the killings. Myanmar’s junta, however, defended the sentences and had called previous efforts by foreign officials to halt the executions “reckless and interfering.”
The executions come more than a year after the army ousted Suu Kyi’s elected government in a coup and detained the civilian leader. The takeover sparked mass anti-government protests, which prompted the junta to launch a bloody crackdown.
Suu Kyi, meanwhile, has been convicted on a number of charges and sentenced to 11 years in prison. She faces another 13 charges that carry a maximum cumulative sentence of more than 180 years.
Analysts noted that the hangings were a desperate move by the military to show strength but said they will likely backfire by turning the activists into revolutionary heroes.
The army has been struggling to suppress resistance forces, who, along with armed ethnic groups that have been fighting the military for years, claim control of around half of Myanmar’s territory.