Decisive moments are always easier to see in history books than in contemporary affairs. We have arrived at such a decisive moment in the history of the Southeast Asian region. Future generations will either read about a powerful, unified, regional front against the horrific actions taken by the Myanmar military junta, or readers will hear a different story – of a weak, fragmented response that condones, if not placates, the regime’s defiance of international law, order, and human rights.
On July 25, the Myanmar military junta announced the execution of four men: Phyo Zeya Thaw; Kyaw Min Yu, also known as “Ko Jimmy”; Hla Myo Aung; and Aung Thura Zaw. All four men were convicted by closed, politically motivated military trials that fell far short of international standards. The military junta accentuated the barbarity of the trial, sentence, and executions by failing to even notify the men’s families.
The gravity of the situation is heightened by the fact that the Myanmar regime is set to execute 41 more political prisoners, and looking at the current situation, the Myanmar military regime has nothing to lose in proceeding.
When the principles of civilized societies are challenged, it is not only an act of defiance against the principles in question, but also a demonstration of contempt against civilization itself. We must not allow the principles of the region and its top political body, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to be weakened. ASEAN must make a powerful, unified stand on the right to life and human rights – not only for the people of Myanmar, but for the future of the region.