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Myanmar sentences lawmaker from Aung San Suu Kyi’s party to death

  • The Guardian
  • 22nd January, 2022 04:11:34 PM
  • Print news

A military tribunal in Myanmar has sentenced a member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s ousted party to death for terror offences, as the junta ramped up a crackdown on the toppled leader’s party.

The south-east Asian country has been in chaos since the February coup, with more than 1,400 killed in a subsequent crackdown on dissent, according to a local monitoring group.

Opposition figures – including allies of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy – have gone into hiding, and “People’s Defence Forces” have sprung up across the country to take on the military.

Phyo Zayar Thaw, a member of the NLD arrested in November, was sentenced to death for offences under the anti-terrorism act, the junta said in a statement on Friday.

Prominent democracy activist Kyaw Min Yu – better known as “Jimmy” – received the same sentence from the military tribunal, the statement added, carrying pictures of both men.

Their sentences were also read out on state media’s nightly news.

The junta has sentenced dozens of anti-coup activists to death as part of its crackdown on dissent but Myanmar has not carried out an execution for decades.

Phyo Zayar Thaw – whose real name is Maung Kyaw – was arrested at an apartment in the commercial hub of Yangon after a “tip-off and cooperation from dutiful citizens”, according to the junta.

The former lawmaker was in possession of two pistols, ammunition and an M-16 rifle, it said at the time.

He had been accused of orchestrating several attacks on regime forces, including a brazen shooting on a commuter train in Yangon in August that killed five policemen.

A hip-hop pioneer in Myanmar whose subversive rhymes irked the previous junta, he was jailed in 2008 for membership of an illegal organisation and possession of foreign currency.

He was elected to parliament for Suu Kyi’s NLD in the 2015 elections that ushered in a transition to civilian rule.

Kyaw Min Yu, who rose to prominence during Myanmar’s 1988 student uprising against Myanmar’s previous military government, was arrested in an overnight raid in October. The junta had alleged he had incited unrest with his social media posts.

Suu Kyi is facing a raft of criminal and corruption charges – including violating the country’s official secrets laws – and if convicted of all of them could face sentences tallying more than 100 years in prison.

She has already been sentenced to six years for illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, flouting Covid rules and incitement against the military.

Before the coup, she was about to begin another five-year term as the country’s de facto leader after the NLD won a landslide victory in a November 2020 poll.

Since the coup, many of her political allies have been arrested, with one chief minister sentenced to 75 years in jail.