Myanmar’s junta executes pro-democracy activists

It's been a year and a half since the military in Myanmar launched a coup, deposed the democratically elected government and restored a dictatorship. And today, an ominous move towards further repression amid countrywide upheaval with the execution by hanging of four pro-democracy activists. Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's been a year-and-a-half since the military in Myanmar launched a coup, deposed the democratically elected government, and restored dictatorship.

    And, today, there was an ominous move toward further repression amid countrywide upheaval, the execution by hanging of four pro-democracy activists.

    Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News reports.

  • Lindsey Hilsum:

    "What's the point of my life?" sang Myanmar's most famous rapper, seen here stage right. Phyo Zeyar Thaw found the point as an activist and politician.

    He campaigned for democracy and became an M.P. But, today, his life was taken from him, one of four political prisoners executed by the country's military junta. State TV said he was a terrorist. The opposition see him as a martyr.

  • Dr. Sasa, Myanmar Opposition National Unity Government:

    Laid down his life for freedom and democracy and for human rights. Just imagine that. So that's who he is.

  • Lindsey Hilsum:

    Another well-known democracy activist, Kyaw Min Yu, known as Ko Jimmy, was also killed in the first executions for half-a-century, a sign that the junta that seize power last year will brook no dissent.

    Tom Andrews, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Myanmar: I think this is an attempt at instilling greater fear and intimidation against the population. If they can't rule by the consent of the people of Myanmar, which they obviously cannot, then they're going to try to terrify them even more than they have to this point.

  • Lindsey Hilsum:

    Nonetheless, a few brave protesters came out onto the streets of Yangon today with banners saying, "We will never be frightened" and filmed themselves, so the world can see, even the prospect of execution will not cow them.

    Last February, after democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi won a landslide election victory, the military staged a coup. She's now in prison. After soldiers suppressed widespread protests, many activists fled into exile and others into the bush.

    Now peaceful resistance has turned to armed rebellion. They call themselves the People's Defense Forces. Footage that's never been seen before shows a graduation ceremony for new fighters in Central Myanmar. An army helicopter launches an airstrike, and both the recruits and the camera crew have to take cover.

    The military has also launched aerial and ground attacks on villages. There are widespread reports of the wounding and killing of civilians by Myanmar soldiers. This is a cruel and rarely seen civil war.

    Today's executions are a sign of how much more cruel it's set to become.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That report from Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News.

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