Human Rights Watch: Myanmar Junta Use Death Penalty to Fear Protesters

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta – The human rights organization, Human Rights Watch, condemned the military junta’s move Myanmar which sentenced 19 people to death. According to Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, Phil Robertson, this signals Myanmar is ready to return to a time when the death penalty was commonplace for defendants.

Another worrying thing, says Robertson, death sentence was handed down in a military court. In other words, there is no potential for appeal, instead a fair trial due to its closed nature.

“There is no guarantee that there will be a free and fair trial in any form, any way,” said Robertson, as quoted by Channel News Asia, Saturday, April 10, 2021.

As previously reported, 19 Myanmar citizens were sentenced to death on charges of stealing and killing military personnel. According to Myanmar state media reports, the incident took place in the city of Okkalapa, Yangon, where military law is enforced. As a result, they were tried at the Myanmar Military Court.

Of the 19 people convicted, 17 were tried in absentia. In other words, the trial proceeded without the defendant’s presence. This raises the suspicion that the verdict was set from the start without the opportunity for the defendant to defend himself.

The death sentence itself was the first in 30 years. Although the death penalty is always included in the criminal code, Myanmar rarely enforces it in line with the times. However, when the coup exploded and the residents fought back as of February 1, suddenly the rule was used again.

Robertson suspects that the reintroduction of the death penalty is a tactic by the Myanmar military to frighten citizens. The Myanmar military, said Robertson, needs citizens to stop fighting and get back to work so that the economy hit by the pandemic, sanctions and coups can recover. However, as is well known, the majority of citizens chose to go on strike to pressure the Myanmar military.

“The core of their mission is to use force and violence to drive everyone off the streets and end the civilian insurgency movement,” said Robertson.

As per this report, the number of victims who died during the Myanmar coup has exceeded 500 people. Dozens of them are children. The majority were shot dead by the Myanmar military during the protests.

Various countries have imposed sanctions on Myanmar to suppress the land of a thousand pagodas, but the results are still to no avail. The Myanmar military has become increasingly violent, even blatantly calling the deaths of citizens their own fault. Even so, the UN reportedly still sent its special envoy, Christine Schraner Burgener, to negotiate a way out the Myanmar coup.

Also read: Myanmar Military Junta Sentences Death to 19 People for Killing Co-Captain



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