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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard


Myanmar—Executions by Military Regime

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Minister of Foreign Affairs): I wish to make a ministerial statement on the execution of activists in Myanmar. On Monday, 25 July Myanmar’s State-run newspaper announced the execution of four people, including political figures Phyo Zeya Thaw, Kyaw Min Yu, Hla Myo Aung, and Aung Thura Zaw. The four were tried by a military court and reportedly denied access to legal counsel. This is a horrifying act by Myanmar’s military regime. These executions are the first in Myanmar in decades and speak further to the regime’s brutality since the coup. Our sympathies and thoughts are with the families and the loved ones of the victims at this time, and with the families and loved ones of all of those who have been killed by the military regime.

In response, I issued a statement on 26 July which notes Aotearoa New Zealand’s strong and longstanding opposition to the death penalty and condemns the executions in the strongest possible terms. New Zealand has also joined a statement at Foreign Minister level with other like-minded countries condemning the executions. Prior to the executions, New Zealand made direct representations to the Myanmar embassy in Canberra. We also shared our concerns via a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and also at the UN Human Rights Council.

In the aftermath of the military coup in February 2021, New Zealand acted quickly and decisively to express our condemnation and to take measures to place pressure on the regime towards a return to civilian government. Immediate actions included suspending high-level political and military bilateral engagement; travel bans on those responsible for the coup and/or ongoing human rights abuses; and ensuring our Government-funded cooperation activities are not channelled through or benefit the military. Since this time, we have consistently called on the military regime to immediately end the violence, adhere to ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus and release all political prisoners including foreign nationals. We have made numerous public statements including in regional and multilateral fora, such as ASEAN ministerial meetings and UN bodies, which have made clear New Zealand’s position and condemnation of the coup.

On 1 February this year, New Zealand announced further travel bans on those with direct responsibility for the coup and/or ongoing human rights violations in Myanmar. New Zealand has also taken a position that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership will not enter into force between New Zealand and Myanmar until such time as New Zealand considers a valid instrument has been deposited by Myanmar, and the requisite timeframe under the agreement has elapsed.

Throughout this difficult time we have continued to support the people of Myanmar, who face growing humanitarian needs as the coup’s impact damages the economy and forces high levels of displacement. New Zealand has stepped up its humanitarian and resilience-building assistance since the coup to support the people of Myanmar. We have provided over $17 million to support Myanmar’s internally displaced people; agricultural livelihoods and food security assistance; COVID-19 control and mitigation; protection and advocacy for international humanitarian law; and increasing the resilience of at-risk populations.

New Zealand has been in close contact with our international partners and New Zealand community groups to understand their views on the situation in Myanmar and how we can work together to place pressure on the military regime. This includes regular contact with the Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) member States. New Zealand is strongly supportive of ASEAN efforts and leadership on the situation in Myanmar. In April 2021, ASEAN leaders agreed a Five-Point Consensus on Myanmar—ending violence, inclusive dialogue, appointment of a special envoy, visit of the special envoy, and humanitarian assistance—and New Zealand has been engaging with ASEAN to support this process. The ASEAN chair has made clear ASEAN’s condemnation of the executions and the damage that this has on regional efforts to resolve the situation in Myanmar.

I will be engaging with my ASEAN counterparts, and other like-minded partners, on what more can be done to support ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus to help end the violence and return Myanmar to civilian rule. The first opportunity to do this will be at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meetings in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on 4 to 5 August, which I will attend in person. ASEAN has a practice of not inviting political level participation from Myanmar in the current circumstances, and we anticipate that this will be the case for these meetings. I will be using statements during these meetings to once again reiterate New Zealand’s condemnation of the coup and these executions.