July 27, 2022 | Opinion
Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

Myanmar citizens who live in Thailand show three fingers as they protest outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok against the execution of pro-democracy activists in Myanmar in this July 26, 2022, photo. The salute, which originated in the film “The Hunger Games,” has become a sign of solidarity and resistance. (CNS photo/Soe Zeya Tun, Reuters)

Myanmar executions should serve as global wake-up call

BY JUSTIN HTUN | CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

The execution of four political prisoners by Myanmar’s military junta made headlines in international news media July 25 and sparked outrage and shock among world leaders.

The executions, which made a comeback after more than three decades in the conflict-torn nation, are an attempt to instill fear among the people who are offering strong resistance to the military rule since the coup in February 2021.

The United Nations was joined by world leaders — including the United States, Europe and Japan — besides global rights groups to vigorously condemn the barbaric act of executing political opponents. The junta accused the four over the weekend, after accusing them of committing terror acts.

The four include former Phyo Zeya Thaw, a member of parliament, and activist Kyaw Min Yu, better known as Ko Jimmy. Both were linked to democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party.

The other two — Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw — were accused of murdering a woman, which many believe was a trumped-up charge.

“The regime’s sham trials and these executions are blatant attempts to extinguish democracy; these actions will never suppress the spirit of the brave people of Burma,” said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Tom Andrews, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said: “These depraved acts must be a turning point for the international community.”

The junta continues to unleash terror and commit atrocities on its people as the world fails to take real action. World leaders have paid much attention to the Ukraine war, while Myanmar has been completely forgotten.

Only when mass killings such as the Christmas Eve massacre in Kayah state occur does the nation grab international media attention, and the U.N. and world leaders rush to release statements that repeatedly express “deep concern” over Myanmar’s crisis.

“As we salute the courage of Ko Jimmy and Phyo Zeya Thaw, we remember the more than 15,000 other lives lost as a result of the junta’s terrorist acts,” said Zin Mar Aung, foreign minister of Myanmar’s National Unity Government in exile.

The U.N. Member States and ASEAN must understand that General Min Aung Hlaing, who runs the military junta, will never listen, nor commit to any promise he has made, Zin Mar Aung warned.

Khin Ohmar, the chairwoman of the rights group Progressive Voice, said: “The impotence of the international community is largely to blame, with the U.N. Security Council repeatedly failing to act to stop the junta from committing horrendous crimes.”

Pope Francis has said the death penalty is fundamentally against the teachings of Christ because it excludes the possibility of redemption, does not give justice to victims and feeds a mentality of vengeance.

Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon said as a cardinal he pleaded from the very depths of his heart with the junta not to hang these men. He also appealed to the world to act.

“If the regime goes through with this, it marks a new low for this already brutal, barbaric, inhumane and criminal junta,” (Cardinal) Bo said in a speech at the Catholic Peacebuilding Network’s virtual conference at the University of Notre Dame in June.

The people from the Southeast Asian nation mourn the deaths of the four men who are regarded as martyrs. They changed their Facebook profile photos to black to mark the sorrowful moment, while some people changed to red to salute their martyrdom.

A group of young people in Yangon took to the streets to show solidarity with the families of the executed and protest the military junta July 25. “We will never be frightened” and “Be ready to pay for the blood debt,” said the banners hung on a bridge in Yangon.

“The junta’s cruel executions challenge the people from Myanmar as also the international community,” Min Ko Naing, a prominent activist and long-time friend of Ko Jimmy, said in a video message.

Time is running out as Myanmar’s crisis has dragged on for too long. The mass killings, burning of civilian homes, arbitrary arrests and torture continue.

It is time now to take real action like international sanctions against Myanmar’s junta rulers. The U.N. Security Council needs to refer Myanmar military leaders to the International Criminal Court and hold them accountable.

The more inaction by the international community, the more the people of Myanmar will have to sacrifice. They deserve to have their right to life and human dignity restored.

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The author writes for ucanews.com from Yangon, Myanmar. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Catholic News Service or UCA News.

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