The Group of Seven (G7) – a coalition of the world’s wealthiest democracies – has joined a chorus of international condemnation following the execution of four pro-democracy activists by Myanmar’s military government.
In a statement on Thursday, the forum, which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, called on the ruling military to “refrain from further arbitrary executions” and to free all political prisoners.
“These executions, the first in Myanmar in over thirty years, and the absence of fair trials show the junta’s contempt for the unwavering democratic aspirations of the people of Myanmar,” a joint statement by G7 foreign ministers, released by the British government, said.
“We continue to condemn in the strongest terms the military coup in Myanmar and express deep concern about the political, economic, social, humanitarian and human rights situation in the country.”
Myanmar’s military took power in a February 2021 coup, arresting State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and launching a violent crackdown as protests spread across the Southeast Asian country. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a monitoring group, says more than 2,000 civilians have been killed since the coup, with human rights organisations warning the actual death toll was likely to be much higher.
Now, rights groups warn that the execution of prominent activist Kyaw Min Yu – better known as “Jimmy” – and former legislator Phyo Zeya Thaw, as well as pro-democracy protesters Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zar, could represent a major new escalation in the repression of anti-coup voices.
Amnesty International has said about 100 others were currently on death row after being convicted by military courts.
Myanmar’s military leaders have described the executions as “justice for the people”, while rights observers say the men were denied fair trials after being convicted of trumped-up “terrorism” charges. United Nations’ Special Envoy on Myanmar Noeleen Heyzer and Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah have called the killings a “crime against humanity”.
On Wednesday, the UN Security Council condemned the executions in a statement endorsed by Russia and China, which have in the past shielded Myanmar at the forum.
Myanmar’s exiled National Unity Government, which was dominated by former legislators from Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, welcomed the statement, calling on the council to “take concrete actions against the junta”.
Cambodia, the current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) whose prime minister personally appealed for clemency for the convicted men, said the coalition was “extremely troubled and deeply saddened” by the executions.
ASEAN and Myanmar, which has been a member of the group since 1997, agreed to a five-point consensus to end the violence triggered in April 2021. However, the military has no willingness to implement the measures, and military-appointed ministers have been banned from attending ASEAN events.