Nineteen people have been sentenced to death by a junta court martial in Myanmar. The men were sentenced for killing an associate of an army captain.
It was the first death sentences announced since the start of the coup on 1 February.
No executions have occurred in Myanmar in the past 30 years.
The military rulers said on Friday that the protests against the military were winding down because people wanted peace.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group has said 614 people, including 48 children, had been killed by security forces since the start of the coup.
Phil Robertson deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division said to Al Jazeera: ‘Myanmar has long been a de facto abolitionist state when it comes to the death penalty, with the last persons executed by the judicial system in 1988. The fact that kangaroo courts run by the military are now issuing death penalty verdicts shows how this junta is tearing up any notion of complying with international human rights norms.’
Sign of desperation
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Tun Khin, president of the London-based Burmese Rohingya Organisation said: ‘The death sentences are a sign of desperation by the military which is trying to scare people into stopping resistance.’
Roberston agrees: ‘The death sentences appear to be part of a strategy to intimidate protesters, and inspire fear that will keep people from continuing their defiant resistance.’
Khin further said: ‘Even though no death sentences have occurred in the last 30 years the circumstances are different since the coup and no one is underestimating the brutality of the Myanmar military at this point. We need to see every country in the world imposing arms embargoes and economic sanctions to stop the flow of money to the military.’
‘The military is using everything at its disposal to terrorise the people of Myanmar.’ Khin said.
According to Robertson ‘The military is really dragging Myanmar back into the rights abusing dark ages of past military dictatorships.’
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