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Who were the four activists put to death by Myanmar’s military rulers?

Myanmar’s ruling military has executed four democracy activists in what is seen as the latest attempt to instill fear among those who continue to battle the junta after it took power in a coup last year. 

The men were accused of helping a civilian resistance movement as the ruling generals sought to put down resistance to their seizure of power from the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi. She is detained under multiple charges.

They were executed in secret on Saturday for charges that their defenders have said were unproven.

Here is who they were:

Phyo Zeys Thaw: 

Before entering politics, the 41-year-old prominent hip-hop artist had founded one of Myanmar’s first rap groups, Acid.

He was also one of the founding members of a youth movement called Generation Wave for people tired of the military regime. In 2008, he was imprisoned for his activism for three years.

After democratic reforms in 2011, he ran as a member of parliament and was a politician until 2020.

He had a tattoo on his back showing a microphone in the centre of a map of Myanmar, reflecting his purpose of life to speak for the people.

Kyaw Min Yu:

Also known as Ko Jimmy, was prominent in a failed 1988 pro-democracy movement and jailed for 18 years during a previous era of military rule. He rose to fame as a student leader at the time, but the movement was crushed by the military and was imprisoned.

After his release in 2005, two years later he was arrested again for his role in the 2007 Saffron Revolution, a protest movement sparked by the rising cost of fuel. 

After last year’s coup, the 53-year-old was charged with inciting unrest and threatening public order before he was arrested in October.

Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw:

The pair were convicted on April 12 and sentenced to death for killing a woman accused of being an informant for the military, the website of the army chief said.

Far less is publicly known about them, but an official at the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (AAPP), an activist group, said they were from Yangon and been involved in protests and resistance movements since the 2021 coup.

The four men were sentenced in closed-door trials in January and April, but it was not clear how any of them had pleaded.

They had been held in the colonial-era Insein prison and their executions were the first in Myanmar since the late 1980s, according to AAPP.

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