Jul 31, 2023

This month commemorates the deaths of prominent activists Ko Jimmy (Kyaw Min Yu) and former National League for Democracy lawmaker and hip-hop star Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw. They, along with two anti-coup protesters, Ko Hla Myo Aung and Ko Aung Thura Zawon, were hanged in Yangon’s Insein Prison on 23 July 2022.

The four men were the first political prisoners to be executed since 1989.

This month Myanmar Campaign Network remembers Ko Jimmy and Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw urging for the release of all political prisoners in Myanmar, including State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint.

Political prisoners remain at risk

The recent incident involving the deaths of at least 8 prisoners and the disappearances of many others during an alleged prison transfer in Bago Region is a stark reminder that political prisoners are still at risk. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), at least 19,609 people remain arbitrarily detained in prison. There are 115 post-coup prisoners on death row with 43 sentenced to death in absentia.

The AAPP has reported alarming cases of interrogation and the appalling mistreatment of prisoners, including physical and psychological torture, as well as instances of rape and sexual assault. Prisoners are denied adequate food water and medical assistance. At least 150 prisoners have died in prison since the coup due to lack of healthcare, ill-treatment or have been tortured to death during interrogation.

These distressing accounts shed light on the urgent need for action to protect the rights and well-being of political prisoners.

End human rights abuses against political prisoners

MCN is calling for an end to arbitrary detention and an end to human rights abuses against political prisoners in Myanmar. MCN demands justice for those who have suffered abuse and torture while in custody, as well as an investigation into reports of extrajudicial killings by security forces.

Crackdowns on unionists

Last month, authorities arrested two members of the outlawed Action Labor Rights group, along with garment factory workers in Yangon. The workers had been protesting for a pay rise.

The workers have been charged under Article 505 of the penal code, which criminalises ‘incitement’. Since the coup, 16 trade unions and organisations active in labour issues have been declared illegal. As a result, the union members face a maximum sentence of three years in prison for their membership in an illegal group.

Two more members of Action Labor Rights have gone into hiding.

The ITUC’s Global Rights Index ranks Myanmar as one of the 10 worst countries for working people. They report that up to 413 trade unionists and worker activists have been arrested for participating in Civil Disobedience Movement protests, and 101 trade union and worker activists have been killed by the military or have died as a result of the coup.

What Australia Must Do

MCN supports the Australian Government’s issuing of sanctions on 1 February this year and urges a new round of sanctions on high-value targets.

These targets include state-owned enterprises particularly in oil and gas, mining, gems, and timber which funnel billions of dollars of foreign revenue to the Myanmar military.

What You Can Do

MCN is supporting the CRPH/NUG Support Group in an Australian Parliament House e-petition calling for new sanctions on the Myanmar military and state-owned entities. Stay tuned to take action and sign! Sign up for the petition link on the MCN homepage here

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