The military junta of Myanmar sentenced nineteen people to death on Friday. As far as we know, it is the first time since the Myanmar army committed a coup détat at the beginning of February that the death penalty is being used.
The convicts were found guilty of theft and murder by a military court. Two of them were arrested in North Okkalapa in the east of the Yangon region. There is a state of emergency in the area, which means that anyone arrested is automatically brought to justice by a military tribunal. Seventeen others were not present at the trial because they are still on the run.
Although the death penalty is allowed in Myanmar, the last time anyone was executed is more than 30 years ago. “It shows that the junta is prepared to return to a time when Myanmar imposed the death penalty,” says Phil Robertson of the Asian Human Rights Organisation Human Rights Watch. Due to the fact that the trial takes place in a military court, suspects cannot appeal.
Purpose of death sentences
According to Robertson, the purpose of the army is to deter protesters from going to the streets and forcing them to return to work. Due to a national boycott, the economy of Myanmar is currently largely flat.
Since the coup détat on 1 February, which also arrested Head of Government Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar has been troubled. Security forces would have killed around 600 protesters so far. In the village of Bago, 65 kilometres from the city of Yangon, more than 80 protesters would have been killed on Friday alone. Residents would flee massively to nearby villages.
The United Nations Special Envoy, Christine Schraner Burgener, arrived in neighbouring Thailand last week in the hope of getting into Myanmar and negotiating with the army to get out of the crisis. So far, shes not allowed by the junta.