Myanmar’s executions: A people let down by the world

The recent executions are an attempt to terrorize the people to move away from that path of dissidence and political activism, writes Sreeradha Datta for South Asia Monitor

Sreeradha Datta Jul 27, 2022
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Myanmar’s executions (Photo: Twitter)

The Indian neighbourhood has been rather preoccupying in recent times. The Sri Lankan situation continues to be deeply worrying despite the people having spoken for themselves when faced with dire conditions brought on by corrupt leaders. There are concerns being voiced vis-à-vis Pakistan and Bangladesh about their fiscal health and possible consequences. But the news of the execution of four Myanmar’s democratic activists by the junta overshadows almost everything else.

Activists Kyaw Min Yu (Ko Jimmy), Phyo Zeyaw Thaw, Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw were executed without any prior information to the inmates or their family. According to a newspaper (The Irrawaddy July 26, 2022), Thaw’s mother saw her son incarcerated in Insein Prison through a brief video link three days ago when he asked for some books and spectacles. She was clueless about the execution dates as was presumably Thaw.  

This course of action is not new for the military junta. There have been many such death penalties handed out in the past. But the shocker came after 1985 when Zin Mo, a North Korean responsible for a bomb attack, received a similar fate.

Brazen junta 

But in todays’ date, the impunity of the junta, which has been able to carry on with the most severe repressive measures, has shown the lengths they are capable of sending their message in the face of the continued protests the military government has been facing since the coup of February 2021.  

To recall briefly, at the general elections held in November 2020, the electoral verdict went in favour of the National League of Democracy led by Suu Kyi. The overwhelming majority reduced the military-led Union Solidarity and Development Party to justy 33 of 476 votes. Ever since, political leaders, students and people from all walks of life have led demonstrations, protests and rallies against the usurpers of power.

There has been international outrage including by ASEAN, which has expressed its strong disappointment over these executions. The Western nations have been similarly sharp in their criticism. China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s Myanmar visit in April had raised hopes of some hard talk with the junta.  

International reticence

Although China has remained quiet during the coup, it was presumed this visit was to appeal to de-escalate the growing violence in the face of people’s protests. Whatever development Myanmar has seen in recent times has been possible due to China, Thailand and India. But each with its own compulsions for reticence has had no influence over the repressive leaders. 

Arguably, even outright denouncement as has been made by other nations have had minimum impact on the military leaders. Much of the economic sanctions imposed by the West have hurt the common people while the military leaders amassed their fortunes through large-scale illegal and corrupt practices. It has becoming increasingly clear that despite very limited economic strength and almost nil social acceptance except amongst its own brethren, the military leaders have held sway.  

Whether it was over the way the Rohingya population was treated or how every process of democratic transition that was underway was annulled, the international community could do very little to get the junta to retrace their steps.

People’s struggle 

It was thus left to the people to carry on with protests and agitations to force the junta to withdraw. The recent executions are an attempt to terrorize the people in moving away from the path of anti-military dissidence and political activism. 

While adversity and despair loom large in the country of  55 million, the people of Myanmar seem destined to carry forward their struggle for freedom and justice alone despite severe repression.  

(The author is Centre Head, Neighbourhood Studies and Senior Fellow, Vivekanda International Foundation. New Delhi and Non-Resident Senior Fellow, ISAS-NUS. Singapore. Views are personal) 

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