Myanmar leader requests Cambodia to reconsider executions of foes

PHNOM PENH (Cambodia) -- The prime minister of Cambodia urged the military-ruled Myanmar government to reconsider four death sentences against political opponents.

Myanmar leader requests Cambodia to reconsider executions of foes

PHNOM PENH (Cambodia) -- The prime minister of Cambodia urged the military-ruled Myanmar government to reconsider four death sentences against political opponents. He suggested that executing them would draw international condemnation and make it difficult to restore peace in the troubled nation.

Hun Sen's Saturday letter to Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing in Myanmar adds to the worldwide outrage and concern over the planned executions of four people involved in the fight against military rule. The foreign ministry of Cambodia received a copy of the letter.

This letter is unusual, as Southeast Asian governments seldom issue statements that could be construed as critical of one another's internal affairs. Hun Sen is a well-known leader who has used authoritarian methods to keep in power for over 37 years. The death penalty was abolished by the 1989 Cambodian Constitution.

A spokesperson for Myanmar's military announced that Phyo Zeya Thaw (a former lawmaker in ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party) and Kyaw min Yu (a veteran pro-democray activist better known under the name Ko Jimmy), would be executed on June 3 for violating the country’s counterterrorism laws.

Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Ton, the spokesperson for the government, stated that the decision to hang them and two other men convicted in the murder of a woman they thought was a military informant was taken after their appeals against the military court judgment.

The date for executions was not announced.

In February 2013, Myanmar's army overtook Suu Kyi, the elected government. This triggered widespread peaceful protests, which soon turned into armed resistance and led to what U.N. experts call a civil war.

Hun Sen is particularly interested in Myanmar, as Cambodia, which this year chairs the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN), of which Myanmar is one, has been chaired.

ASEAN has tried to help Myanmar by providing humanitarian aid and promoting peace in the country. However, Myanmar's military has not cooperated with ASEAN's plans.

Prak Sokhonn, the Cambodian Foreign Minister, is ASEAN's special representative to Myanmar. However Hun Sen has expressed his pessimism regarding a breakthrough in dealings with Myanmar's generals.

Antonio Guterres, U.N. Secretary General, has called for the immediate release of all political prisoners from Myanmar and for all charges against anyone arrested for exercising fundamental freedoms.

Two U.N. experts issued harsher condemnations on Friday

"The illegitimate military coup is giving the international community further evidence of their disregard for human rights as they prepare to hang pro-democracy advocates," stated Thomas Andrews, special raporteur on human rights, Myanmar, and Morris Tidball Binz, special reporteur on extrajudicial summaries or arbitrary executions.

"These death sentences, handed by an illegitimate Court of an illegitimate Junta, are a vile effort to instill fear among the people of Myanmar."

They also pointed out that almost 2,000 civilians have been extrajudicially killed by the military.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (a non-governmental organization that tracks killings and arrests), 1,929 civilians were killed by security forces on Friday. According to it, 114 others were sentenced.

The death penalty has also been condemned by Western governments.

Myanmar's foreign ministry rejected criticisms on Monday, declaring its judicial system fair. Kyaw Min Yu and Phyo Zeya Thaw were found guilty of plotting terrorist attacks on civilians in order to instill fear and disrupt stability and peace.

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Peck reported from Bangkok.

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