Philippines-Myanmar relations

Philippines hits ‘reprehensible’ killings of democracy activists in Myanmar

Sofia Tomacruz
Philippines hits ‘reprehensible’ killings of democracy activists in Myanmar

MYANMAR SOLDIER. A Myanmar soldier stands guard in front of a Hindu temple in the downtown area in Yangon, Myanmar, February 2, 2021.

Reuters

The killing of four democracy activists in Myanmar were the Southeast Asian nation’s first executions in decades, sparking widespread international condemnation

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government denounced the Myanmar military junta’s recent execution of four democracy activists in the Southeast Asian country and expressed disappointment over slow progress on the five-point consensus that had been agreed upon to end the crisis in the violence-hit nation.

Philippine Assistant Foreign Secretary for ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Affairs Daniel Espiritu made the statement in a press briefing on Thursday, July 28, describing the killings as “reprehensible.”

“Let me tell you that aside from the position of ASEAN of expressing being extremely troubled and saddened by the execution of the four activists in Myanmar, the Philippines denounces that execution,” Espiritu said. 

Myanmar defends executions as ‘justice for the people’ as condemnation grows

Myanmar defends executions as ‘justice for the people’ as condemnation grows

The killing of four democracy activists in Myanmar were the Southeast Asian nation’s first executions in decades, sparking widespread condemnation that the Myanmar military has so far defended itself against by referring to the deaths “justice for the people.”

Sentenced to death in closed-door trials in January and April, the four men had been accused of helping militias to fight the army that seized power in a coup last year and unleashed a bloody crackdown on its opponents. Cambodia, which currently sits as ASEAN chair, earlier appealed to the junta in June to stop the planned executions which sparked deep concern in the region.

It was unclear when and how the executions were carried out. According to reports from Reuters, junta spokesperson Zaw Min Tun earlier said the men were “given due process and insisted those executed were not democracy activists, but killers deserving of their punishment.”

On Thursday, the Philippines echoed a statement released by ASEAN which criticized the Myanmar military for showing a “lack of political will” to carry out the five-point consensus which included calling for an immediate end to violence, constructive dialogue among parties concerned, provision of humanitarian assistance by ASEAN, and the appointment of a special envoy to facilitate mediation.

“We are even more strongly pushing for the swifter and complete implementation of the five-point consensus especially considering that there has not been much progress…beyond the designation of a special envoy for the ASEAN chair and the meetings in Myanmar,” Espiritu said. 

News of the executions in the Southeast Asian country emerged just days before members of the regional bloc will gather for the 55th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting. 

Crisis in Myanmar is expected to be among major issues ASEAN foreign ministers will tackle as they meet in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for a series of face-to-face meetings – the first to take place physically since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs said that no political representation will be observed in meetings with Myanmar. “The Philippines and ASEAN have stood pat on our position that as long as there is no progress in the five-point consensus, then we’ll only settle for a nonpolitical representation in these meetings of Myanmar,” Espiritu said. 

“That means no foreign minister via senior officials. The career diplomats of Myanmar will hold the position of the senior officials in ASEAN meeting, but political appointees of the administration, especially the military administration are not welcome,” he added. 

Since the country’s military seized power from its democratically-elected government in February 2021, more than 1,000 civilians have been killed in a post-coup crackdown, with thousands more detained, many tortured or beaten, according to the United Nations, citing activists. The junta is accused of using excessive military force against civilian populations. – with reports from Reuters/Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.