Former lawmaker and one of the pioneers of Burmese hip hop Phyo Zeya Thaw (also spelled Phyo Zayar Thaw), 41, and three other men—democracy activist Kyaw Min Yu, 53, popularly known as “Ko Jimmy,” Aung Thura Zaw, and Hla Myo Aung—were reportedly executed by Myanmar’s military junta today, July 25, 2022.

According to Reuters, the four democracy activists have been “sentenced to death in closed-door trials in January and April… [they] 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.” This is the first time Myanmar has carried out the death penalty in 30 years, which immediately drew international condemnation.

“These executions amount to arbitrary deprivation of lives and are another example of Myanmar’s atrocious human rights record,” said Erwin Van Der Borght, regional director of rights group Amnesty International.

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“The Myanmar junta’s execution of four men was an act of utter cruelty,” said Elaine Pearson, acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch. The organization said that it “opposes capital punishment in all countries and under all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty and finality, and has long called on Myanmar to end all use of the death penalty.”

“These executions, including of activist Ko Jimmy and opposition lawmaker Phyo Zeya Thaw, followed grossly unjust and politically motivated military trials. This horrific news was compounded by the junta’s failure to notify the men’s families, who learned about the executions through the junta’s media reports,” Pearson adds.

According to Reuters, Thazin Nyunt Aung, Phyo Zeyar Thaw’s wife, said she had not been informed of her husband’s execution beforehand.

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The Washington Post reported last month that the junta is carrying out the execution despite having had the four men’s appeals denied. Zaw Min Tun, a spokesman for the Junta, defended the death penalty, asserting that it was “justified and used in many countries.”

Zeya Thaw was reportedly “arrested with firearms and ammunition” in a raid in November 2021. Rap Against Junta, a hip hop group from Myanmar, took to Instagram at the time to call for the release of Zeya Thaw, and shared that the former hip hop artist told them once that he wishes to retire from politics and return to a “normal hip hop-loving lifestyle” as a civilian.

They also recognized the musician for his work as a pro-democracy activist and for his time spent as a member of the groundbreaking hip-hop ensemble ACID from Myanmar. “You’ve been representing the power of the people and been helping the young generations for a better future. We salute your bravery, support, and your works,” the group wrote.