Burma executes four democratic activists, including ex-lawmaker

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Burma has carried out its first execution of political prisoners in decades following the country’s military takeover in 2021.

The hanging of former lawmaker Phyo Zeya Thaw, Kyaw Min Yu, a democracy activist, and two other political prisoners, Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Za, was first announced in the state-run Mirror Daily newspaper.

The executions brought swift condemnation from world leaders, including U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres whose spokesman, Farhan Haq, decried them as "a further deterioration of the already dire human rights environment in Burma."

The four men were executed "in accordance with legal procedures" for directing and organizing "violent and inhuman accomplice acts of terrorist killings," the Mirror Daily reported, without specifying when they were hanged.

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The military government later issued a brief statement about the executions, while the prison where the men had been held and the prison department refused to comment.

The U.S. Embassy in Burma said it mourned the loss of the four men and offered condolences to their families while decrying the decision to execute them.

"We condemn the military regime's execution of pro-democracy leaders and elected officials for exercising their fundamental freedoms," the embassy said.

Burma's Foreign Ministry had rejected the wave of criticism that followed its announcement in June, declaring that its judicial system is fair and that Phyo Zeya Thaw and the others were "proven to be masterminds of orchestrating full-scale terrorist attacks against innocent civilians to instill fear and disrupt peace and stability."

"They killed at least 50 people," military spokesperson Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun said at a televised news conference last month. He said the decision to hang the prisoners conformed with the rule of law and the purpose was to prevent similar incidents in the future.

The military's seizure of power from Suu Kyi's elected government triggered peaceful protests that soon escalated to armed resistance and then to widespread fighting that some U.N. experts characterize as a civil war.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.