Ramifications of Capital Punishment and Unlawful Killings by Urban Guerrilla Movements

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – October 21

MoeMaKa, October 22, 2023

Ramifications of Capital Punishment and Unlawful Killings by Urban Guerrilla Movements

According to recent reports, the military council court has issued death sentences to seven individuals linked to last year’s assassination in Pyapon, Ayeyarwady, while another seven received lengthy prison terms.

In August of the previous year, 15 individuals, including a woman, were apprehended in Pyapon city, accused of murdering two women on grounds of being informants for the military council and affiliated with an urban guerrilla group named Black Dragon Force Pyapon. After approximately a year-long trial at the Pyapon District Court, seven of them were condemned to death.

The victims, a clerk from the Pyapon ward administration office and her companion, were fatally shot by members of the Black Dragon Force Pyapon at a restaurant. Subsequently, news emerged of the arrest of several guerrilla members, with the military council confirming the capture of these urban guerrilla elements.

Compared to other regions, urban guerrilla activities in the townships of Ayeyarwady Division have been relatively infrequent, primarily occurring in cities like Pathein, Pyapon, Maupin, etc., over the past few years. Notably, the death penalty was imposed by a civilian court, not a military court, as Pyapon Township is not under military rule.

Since the military coup, numerous armed resistance attacks, assassinations of suspected informants, and assaults on military council security posts have taken place in cities over the past two years. Many individuals arrested for these offenses have been sentenced to death, totaling between 150 and 160. Last year, four individuals, including Ko Zeyar Thaw, Ko Jimmy, and two from Hlaingthaya Township, were executed.

The death sentences can be perceived as a message from the military council, indicating their intent to ultimately punish urban guerrilla groups within cities, instilling fear. However, numerous cases of extrajudicial killings without trial have occurred, primarily targeting anti-military council activists in urban areas and suspected PDF members in villages.

Unlawful killings of civilians, occurring almost daily in areas with armed resistance, are no longer surprising. Villages in Sagaing, Magway, Mandalay, Chin, Kachin, and Karenni have witnessed not only hundreds but thousands of civilians unlawfully killed.

The military council’s armed forces appear to believe in their authority to arrest, torture, and kill individuals merely based on family members’ association with armed PDF groups. Recent incidents, such as the arrest, torture, and rape of a wife due to her husband’s PDF affiliation near the Mandalay-Monywa highway, exemplify the rising trend of hate-driven killings and abuses.

Professional army codes of conduct and rules of engagement, present only on paper, are increasingly disregarded in actual combat. Distinctions between civilians, women, minors, and public property are often ignored under the broad label of “enemy,” leading to excessive punishment, executions, and killings without accountability for illegal actions.

While the military council portrays the imposition of death penalties as a symbol of its judiciary, the grim reality is marked by illegal killings, abuses, and severe human rights violations.