More than 90 people have been sentenced to death by military courts in Myanmar’s Yangon region since the country’s army overthrew civilian rule in a Feb. 1 coup, according to reports in Myanmar’s junta-controlled media.
Five youths were sentenced on Dec. 16 in Yangon’s South Dagon township for allegedly shooting and killing a local administrator, and another two — identified as Hein Htet Aung and Aukkar Thein —were sentenced in North Dagon township on Dec. 3.
Six others, including Htet Paing Soe, also called Pho Htet, from South Dagon Myothit, and 15 others from Dagon Seikkan township, including Khin Wint Kyaw Maung and Zin Min Kyaw, were also handed death sentences, bringing the total to 28 between November and mid-December.
The number of people on death row in the six Yangon townships under martial law has now risen to 92, of whom 42 were sentenced in absentia, according to official figures.
Speaking to RFA, San San Aye — the mother of four of the youths sentenced in South Dagon — said she feels great sympathy for the parents of other young men condemned to die.
“I have suffered emotionally, and I’m sure they are no different from me,” she said. “No matter who you are, you will feel the same if your children meet this fate. My two sons and two adopted sons are now on death row. I don’t want these people to suffer like me.”
One of her two sons, Thaw Zin Naing, also called Khaing Myair, is now being held in Taungoo prison, while her second son San Naing, also called Shwe Ngar, was sent to prison in central Myanmar’s Mandalay, she said. Her two adopted sons — Soe Phyae Aung, also called Aung Aung, and Aung Myo Lin, also called Kyethpha — are in custody in prisons in Myingyan and in Kyaikmaraw.
Persons tried by military tribunals in the six Yangon townships under martial law have lost the right to legal representation normally provided under Myanmar law and have almost always received sentences of life in prison or death, sources said.
Veteran Myanmar lawyer Pho Phyu said that junta security forces routinely torture detainees to force confessions that can be used against them in court.
“Handing out sentences based on these statements is not in accordance with the law,” he said.
'Rule of law has disappeared'
The verdicts handed down by Myanmar’s military courts testify to the loss of human rights and collapse of an independent judiciary in the country, said Aung Myo Min, human rights minister for Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government.
“These cases just show the world how much the rule of law has disappeared and how much people have lost their rights, and they show how much democracy is being threatened in Myanmar,” he said.
A former political prisoner who was sentenced to death during an earlier period of military rule said that the people now condemned by military courts should not lose hope.
“It’s terrifying when they give you this orange prison uniform after handing down the death penalty, and even if you’ve been in prison before, you can feel your legs trembling as you walk down to the death cell,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
“Those now in prison, along with their family members, must not lose hope that they might go free one day. Our lives can always take a new turn when the political situation changes in the country,” he said.
Myanmar’s junta has killed 1,348 civilians and arrested 8,131 since February, mostly during non-violent protests against the coup, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
— Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Richard Finney.