Executions of prominent Myanmar dissidents’ temporarily called off, rights groups say

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Myanmar’s military was scheduled to execute two anti-coup dissidents on Thursday, but sources inside a Myanmar prison say they have not been ordered to carry out the execution as of Thursday afternoon.

Human rights groups and Myanmar observers have condemned the rumored executions of four anti-junta activists, including prominent political figures, Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw and Ko Jimmy.

But Yangon’s Insein Prison spokesperson told the local newspaper, Myanmar Now on Thursday that there has been no instruction to carry out executions at the time of writing.

“We have not received any proposal, notification or order regarding the death sentences,” the prison spokesperson, Khin Shwe, told Myanmar Now.

Earlier in June, the Myanmar junta announced its plan on executing the activists, accused of committing “acts of terror.” But rumors started on Wednesday night that Ko Jimmy, a known activist during the 1988 pro-democracy spring, and Phyo Zayar Thaw, a former MP with an opposition party, were to be executed on Thursday morning.

Phil Robertson, the Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, told Thai Enquirer that without transparency from the junta, researchers are unable to confirm whether the prisoners are still alive.

“That is all we know at this point,” Robertson said. “This is not a system that is even remotely transparent, we don’t even know the source of the rumor, and it could be someone in the prison or someone else, we just don’t know.”

Robertson added that there needs to be “ concerted international pressure” to deter the Myanmar junta from executing the activists. 

“This is a cruel and unusual punishment, and the fact that they are not a legitimate government in the first place means they should not be taking this kind of action,” Robertson said.

Myanmar has been in a state of turmoil since last year’s February 1 coup. Since then, the military has carried out a deadly crackdown on protesters and activists, igniting armed resistance. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, at least 1,954 people have been killed during the crackdown, with thousands of others arrested or detained.

Protesters in Yangon hung banners on a major intersection Wednesday that read, “If death sentences are carried out, we will surely retaliate.” Many analysts share the same view that if the executions go forward, the killings could spark increased resistance.

“The international pressure must continue, that is the only thing these condemned men have,” Robertson said.

Additional report By Erich Parpart

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