Cambodia, the current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), says it is “extremely troubled” over the Myanmar military government’s execution of four democracy activists and politicians, adding that the timing of the act – just before a ministerial summit – was “reprehensible”.
Myanmar announced on Monday it had hanged Phyo Zeya Thaw, a former legislator from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, and prominent democracy activist Kyaw Min Yu after they were found guilty in a closed-door trial that rights groups said lacked credibility.
Two other men, Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw, were executed for allegedly killing a woman they had accused of being a military informant.
The hangings were the first since 1989 and drew outrage from across the world.
In a statement dated July 25, Cambodia said that ASEAN was “extremely troubled and deeply saddened” by the men’s executions, noting that the group of nations had called for the sentences to be reconsidered, while Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had made a “personal appeal” for clemency.
Noting ASEAN ministers will meet next week for their summit, the statement said the timing was “highly reprehensible as it created a setback to and present(s) a gross lack of will to support to efforts … in building trust and confidence to engender a dialogue in order to end violence and alleviate the suffering of innocent people”.
ASEAN and Myanmar, which has been a member of the group since 1997, agreed to a Five Point Consensus to end the violence triggered by the military’s February 2021 coup, in April of the same year.
The military has shown no willingness to implement the measures, and military-appointed ministers have been banned from attending ASEAN events.
On Tuesday, Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah accused Myanmar’s rulers of “making a mockery” of the plan and denounced the executions as a “crime against humanity”.
Saifuddin told a news conference in Kuala Lumpur alongside the United Nations’ special envoy on Myanmar that the killings would be a focus of the upcoming ASEAN meeting in Cambodia.
“We hope we have seen the last of the executions and we will try to use whatever channel that we can to try and ensure that this will not happen again,” he said, adding that Malaysia would seek to present a framework for the implementation of the Five Point Consensus plan at the summit.
Myanmar announced in June it was going to resume executing prisoners and has 113 others who have been sentenced to death, although 41 of those were convicted in absentia, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a non-governmental organisation that tracks killing and arrests.
Meanwhile, the death toll in the military’s crackdown on its opponents has since climbed beyond 2,000, and thousands have been arrested.
The United Nations and rights groups say the military, which already faces genocide charges over its crackdown on the mostly Muslim Rohingya in 2017, has committed war crimes since seizing power.
Myanmar has also refused to allow ASEAN officials to see imprisoned former leader Aung San Suu Kyi, despite their repeated requests.