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Myanmar’s junta imposes multiple death sentences on activists

Lawyers and human rights experts in Myanmar have condemned the junta’s liberal use of the death penalty, including several recent cases where anti-junta activists received multiple death sentences.

Such sentences are meant to terrorize opponents of the junta, which is losing ground to ethnic armies and resistance fighters in a civil war now in its third year, but the absurdity of doing so is turning the judicial system into a farce, rights groups say.

“No one should be sentenced to capital punishment twice,” Kyaw Win, executive director of the Burma Human Rights Network, told Radio Free Asia. “The death penalty for these cases is more than enough, giving twice makes the legal system a joke.”

Since taking control of the government in a Feb. 1, 2021, coup, the military junta has sentenced a total of 164 people to death, according to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for  Political Prisoners.

On Feb. 29, the military junta sentenced seven people to death – five of them for the second or third time.

The seven – Thura Phyo,  Tun Tun Oo, Kyaw San Oo, Ko Ko Aung, Aung Moe Myint, Win Myat Thein Zaw and  Kaung Si Thu – were convicted of murdering two women from the Ayeyarwady region’s Pyapon township, who they believed were junta informants, sources familiar with the situation told RFA Burmese.

Five of the seven had already been sentenced to death on Oct. 20, along with two other defendants, San Lin San and Wunna Tun, the latter of whom has been sentenced to death twice himself. That case was over the killing of ward administrators in Maubin, Pyapon and Bogale townships.

But four of those five had been involved in an even earlier case, meaning they have now received the death penalty three times.

In addition, the defendants in all three cases received prison sentences ranging from 15 to 45 years.

Imposing multiple sentences is unprecedented in Myanmar’s judicial history, lawyer Kyee Myint told RFA. “Only one [death] sentence must be given,” he said. “Sentences should not be imposed again and again. It is against the law.”  

Thike Tun Oo, a leading committee member of the Political Prisoners Network-Myanmar, said that in addition to the repeated death sentences, long-term prison terms are not the fair punishments for the crime. 

“The death penalty should not be imposed on them at all as they have suffered the same penalty,” he said. “In addition, some were sentenced to 45 years after the death penalty. It is a totally unfair sentence.”

RFA Burmese attempted to contact the family members of the sentences by telephone, but were unable to reach them. 

RFA also attempted to contact Khin Maung Kyi, the minister of social affairs for the Ayeyarwady region, but received no response.  

Translated by Aung Naing. Edited by Eugene Whong and Malcolm Foster.