Myanmar military tribunal sentences prominent activist, former lawmaker to death

Myanmar special military tribunal on Friday sentenced a veteran political activist and former lawmaker under the previous democratically elected government to death for activities supporting opponents of the junta that has ruled the country since February, the government said.

Kyaw Min Yu, a prominent leader of the pro-democracy 88 Generation Students Group who fought military rule three decades ago and who is better known by his alias Ko Jimmy, and Phyo Zayar Thaw, a former National League for Democracy legislator and close aid of deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, were found guilty of violating the country’s Counterterrorism Law, said a statement issued by the junta government.

The tribunal convicted Ko Jimmy for contacting the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, National Unity Government (NUG), and People’s Defense Force (PDF), an opposition coalition and militia network formed by politicians ousted in the Feb. 1 coup that the junta has declared terrorist organizations.

In September, the NUG declared a nationwide state of emergency and called for open rebellion against junta rule, prompting an escalation of attacks on military targets by various allied pro-democracy militias and ethnic armed groups.

Ko Jimmy, an outspoken critic of the junta who spent eight months in hiding, was also accused of advising local militia groups in Yangon and ordering PDF groups to attack police, military targets, and government offices, and asking the NUG to buy a 3D printer at an estimated cost of U.S. $1 billion to produce weapons for local PDFs.

Phyo Zayar Thaw was tried on charges of providing financial support and weapons to local PDF members, contacting the opposition groups, and involvement in attacks in Yangon.

Ko Jimmy’s wife, Nilar Thein, told RFA that she will not hire an attorney to appeal what she said was an unfair prosecution.

“Despite that they unfairly prosecuted and sentenced him, Ko Jimmy himself would not cooperate with any charges or trials, so there is no reason for the family to hire a lawyer to defend the unfair prosecution,” she said.

“I am rather doing my own part in order to defeat the military dictatorship,” she added without elaborating.

Min Ko Naing, Myanmar pro-democracy activist and former 88 Generation Students Group leader and a close associate of both Ko Jimmy and Phyo Zayar Thaw, said the people will not give up their fight against the military junta.

“In terms of war, they might have captured a hill or a camp, but they will eventually lose the entire war. We, the people, will win.”

The 88 Generation Students Group led the August 1988 uprising against a previous military regime that had governed Myanmar, then known as Burma, since 1962, running the economy into the ground and creating a pariah state. Their protests led to reforms that eventually ushered in a brief period of democratic rule that ended with this year’s coup.

Arrested in October, Ko Jimmy was imprisoned from 1988 to 2005 for his political activities and again from 2007 to 2012, spending 21 years in prison.

On Wednesday, the junta’s military court sentenced four young men from Yangon’s North Okkalapa, Thingangyun, Bahan, and Hlaing Tharyar townships, to life in prison under the same law for their alleged connections to “the terror groups.”

The areas are among six townships in Yangon that have been under martial law since March 2021.

According to opposition sources and families, 141 people have been sentenced to life in prison by various military tribunals in Yangon during the past year.

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