Before executions, Myanmar’s junta tortured opponents to crush dissent

A year and a half after seizing power in a coup, the military government is resorting to increasingly brutal measures to stamp out resistance to its rule, rights groups say.

Executions, brutal beatings and sexual violence — Myanmar’s military junta is resorting to increasingly brutal measures to crush opposition to its rule, according to a new Amnesty International report Monday. 

The report adds to evidence that detainees are being tortured by the military regime that seized power from Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government in February 2021, prompting calls for the international community to take greater action against the junta.

“It is a message that they will do anything to maintain their power,” Amnesty’s Myanmar researcher told NBC News by email. 

“As long as the Myanmar military is not held accountable for their crimes, it is difficult to imagine any prospect of peace in Myanmar,” said the researcher, whose name is not being used for security reasons.

The report comes after the government executed four democracy activists last month, in the first such killings in more than 30 years. The executions of the four men — Kyaw Min Yu, Phyo Zeya Thaw, Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw, who were sentenced after a closed-door trial — have drawn international condemnation, including from the United Nations Security Council.

“Given how things have deteriorated in Myanmar, this is a moment to stop, assess and move forward in a coordinated and very robust way based on action, not simply condemnation,” Tom Andrews, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, told NBC News by phone. 

“The more time that we delay taking the action that is necessary, the greater the catastrophe that will befall the people of Myanmar,” he added.

The executions of the four men have drawn international condemnation.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), more than 70 other political prisoners are facing execution in Myanmar, which was formerly known as Burma, while 41 have been sentenced to death in absentia. It is unclear whether more executions will be carried out by the junta, but “the more desperate they are, the more brutal they become,” Bo Kyi, the nongovernmental organization’s joint secretary, said in an email.

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