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Julia Bergin

Myanmar’s political executions: China, ASEAN fail to condemn killings

The execution of four democracy activists in Myanmar by the country’s military leaders has triggered a chorus of condemnation from most leaders around the world.

The junta has killed 326 political prisoners since the military seized power in a coup on February 1 2020, but the executions of Kyaw Min Yu (aka Ko Jimmy), Phyo Zeya Thaw, Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw are the first instances of capital punishment in Myanmar since the late 1980s.

It is believed more than 100 others are also on death row after similarly secret convictions. Human rights organisations are urging world leaders to act immediately. The UN issued a statement calling the executions “depraved”, and the National Unity Government of Myanmar (NUG) called on the global community to “punish their cruelty”. 

Crikey looks at who has spoken out and who has kept quiet.

The foreign affairs ministers of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the Republic of Korea, the UK and the US joined the high representative of the European Union to issue a joint statement calling the executions “reprehensible acts of violence”.

Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong issued her own statement today. She said Australia was “appalled” and echoed the sentiments of Japan and others calling on the military to “cease violence”, release detainees, and “fulfil its commitments under the ASEAN five-point consensus”. 

A number of key US figures also spoke out: “business as usual” with Myanmar was no more. The US said it would not rule out additional measures, including sanctions. 

France and Germany also issued “strong” condemnation of the killings, calling for an “end to the violence perpetrated by the Burmese military regime”.

China’s foreign affairs ministry would not be drawn to comment, maintaining that “China always adheres to the principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs”.

Last month Cambodian Prime Minister and chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Hun Sen, sent a letter to junta chief Min Aung Hlaing, urging him not to proceed with the executions. Neither Cambodia nor ASEAN has commented on the executions. 

Russia has offered radio silence.

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