Myanmar’s military regime has said that appeals by two prominent democracy activists against their death sentences have been rejected, paving the way for the country’s first executions in decades.
Veteran democracy activist Kyaw Min Yu and Phyo Zeya Thaw, a lawmaker for the National League for Democracy, which the generals removed from power in a coup in February 2021, were sentenced to death by a military tribunal in January on charges of treason and terrorism, according to a military statement at the time.
A spokesperson for the military said on Friday that the two men’s appeals against the death sentence had been rejected.
“Previously, the convicts sentenced to death could appeal and if no decision was made, then their death sentences would not be implemented,” spokesperson Zaw Min Tun told the BBC’s Burmese language service.
“At this time, that appeal was rejected so the death sentences are going to be implemented,” he said.
There was no detail on when the executions would take place.
Representatives of the two activists could not be reached for comment and it was unclear whether or not the two had denied the charges against them. The military did not mention how the two activists had pleaded.
Though the military has sentenced dozens of anti-coup activists to death as part of its crackdown on dissent after seizing power last year, Myanmar has not carried out an execution for decades.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the decision to “move towards executing two prominent political leaders will be like pouring gasoline on the fire of popular anti-military resistance in the country”.
“Such a move will also lead to global condemnation and cement the junta’s reputation as among the worst of the worst human rights abusers in Asia.”
The Myanmar military has been widely condemned for its power grab, and for the brutal crackdown that it has since unleashed on critics, opposition members and activists.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a new report that the number of people displaced within strife-torn Myanmar has for the first time exceeded one million, with well over half the total losing their homes after the military takeover in 2021.
The report said that more than 694,300 people have become displaced from their homes since the takeover, and an estimated 346,000 people were displaced by fighting before last year’s coup.
Approximately 40,200 people have fled to neighbouring countries and more than 12,700 “civilian properties”, including houses, churches, monasteries and schools are estimated to have been destroyed, according to the UN.