On November 30, 2022, a martial court in Myanmar sentenced seven university students who attend Dagon University to death following deliberation in closed-door trials. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the students are Khant Zin Win; Thura Maung Maung; Zaw Lin Naing; Thiha Htet Zaw; Hein Htet; Thet Paing Oo; and Khant Linn Maung Maung. Execution dates remain unannounced.
The sentences of the students, all of whom are under the age of 25, were issued on charges of assassinating a retired military official and a manager of a state-owned bank, Saw Moe Win, in April 2022, even though the assassination was claimed by the guerrilla group Anti-Fascist Armed Forces and their ally, the Yangon Liberation Force. UN Human Rights Chief, Volker Türk, described the death sentences and indiscriminate arrests as a “political tool” weaponized by the regime to “crush [any] opposition” that stands against the junta government. The opaque nature of the proceedings is also intended to obstruct due process, infringing on the “most basic…fair trial guarantees.” HRW also reports that any convictions are typically contrived from confessions extracted under torture which include beatings and other abusive and cruel treatments.
A group of 233 student unions released a joint statement on December 3 condemning the death sentences and refused to accept the court’s ruling; they have since called for “international action to prevent such killings.” The National Unity Government (NUG), which banded together in exile after the coup, also “strongly denounced” the regime’s murders and death sentences, calling for the release of “all young people and other political activists.”
On December 15, the same Myanmar court in Yangon’s Insein Prison extended the initial three-year sentence of another imprisoned student from Dagon University, Ye Lin Oo, to ten years for “incitement against the military,” which he was initially charged with in March 2022. Ye Lin Oo, along with five others, had been arrested in September 2021 for anti-junta protesting. In addition to Oo and his peers, Dagon University Students’ Union states that, since the coup took place, at least 40 students have been arrested by the military.
In addition to the targeting of students, academics, and journalists, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) reports that at least 2,500 civilians have been killed by the Myanmar regime and 16,500 have been arrested. AAPP also states that since February 2021, 130 people have been sentenced to death in similar secretive court proceedings.
Endangered Scholars Worldwide (ESW) condemns the death sentences of students, activists, and other civilians ordered by Myanmar’s secretive military courts. We endorse the UN High Commissioner's actions in investigating the closed-door trials that stand to conceal unjust decision-making resulting in violations of these students’ rights to a fair trial and peaceful protest. ESW also stands with HRW’s demand for the junta to “impose a moratorium on the death penalty with the aim of abolishing capital punishment in the country.” ESW calls upon all international organizations, academic and professional associations, and other groups and individuals devoted to the promotion and defense of human rights to strongly protest and condemn these death sentences; to ask for their immediate and unconditional release upon appeal; and to stand in solidarity with the Burmese people, who continue to oppose the military regime that illegitimately interrupted democratic politics in the country.
Please send appeals to the following:
Ambassador Aung Lynn
Embassy of Myanmar (Burma)
2300 S Street, NW, Washington DC 20008, USA
(202) 332-3344, (202) 332-4350, (202) 332-4352
Kyaw Moe Tun
Permanent Representative of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar to the United Nations
10 E 77th St, New York, NY 10075, USA