A US State Department official has urged China to increase pressure on Myanmar’s military government after its execution of four democracy activists, saying there could be “no business as usual” with the junta.
State department spokesman Ned Price said China could influence Myanmar more than any other country – but China said it did not interfere in other countries’ internal affairs.
“We are calling on countries around the world to do more. We will be doing more as well,” Price said.
He called on all countries to ban sales of military equipment to the country and “refrain from lending the regime any degree of international credibility”.
Meanwhile Myanmar’s junta insisted the men “deserved many death sentences”.
A spokesman said the four had been able to defend themselves in court.
“If we compare their sentence with other death penalty cases, they have committed crimes for which they should have been given death sentences many times,” junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun said at a regular press briefing.
The four men had been allowed to speak with family members by video link before their execution, Zaw Min Tun said.
Activist Kyaw Min Yu, better known as Ko Jimmy, and former lawmaker Phyo Zeya Thaw were among those executed.
The activists were arrested after an army-led coup last year and accused of committing “terror acts”. They were sentenced to death in a closed-door trial that rights groups criticised as being unjust.
Both Phyo Zeya Thaw and Ko Jimmy lost their appeals against their sentences in June.
Less is known about the two other activists – Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw. They were sentenced to death for killing a woman who was an alleged informer for the junta.
Rights group Amnesty has warned that 100 more people in the country have been sentenced to death after being convicted in similar proceedings.
The executions have been roundly criticised by the international community.
In a joint statement, the EU, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, the UK and the US called them “reprehensible acts of violence that further exemplify the regime’s disregard for human rights and the rule of law”.
They also called for the junta regime to fulfil its obligation to seek peace through dialogue under an agreement negotiated with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
However former US ambassador to Myanmar Scott Marciel told the BBC that the ASEAN plan had been “dead on arrival” last year and countries sympathetic to Myanmar’s democracy movement should do more.
“It keeps being trotted out and highlighted as a way forward when in fact it’s not,” he said.
ASEAN itself, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet and rights groups have all condemned the executions.
“This cruel and regressive step is an extension of the military’s ongoing repressive campaign against its own people,” said Ms. Bachelet. (Source: BBC)