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Myanmar Hip Hop pioneer Phyo Zeya Thaw executed

The United Nations has condemned the act as “cruel”

LiFTED | Marcus Aurelius | 26 Jul 2022

Hip Hop has always been about fighting the power. On Monday, July 25, Myanmar’s Phyo Zeya Thaw lost that fight as he was executed by the ruling junta in an execution the United Nations has called “cruel.” What makes this even scarier is that Myanmar hadn’t executed anyone in 30 years.

In 2020, Myanmar’s National League for Democracy [NLD] won a landslide victory in the general elections. Then all things went to hell. The military refused to accept the results of the people and placed the leaders of the NLD in jail, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest between 1989 and 2009. She is now in prison for the rest of her life. In the two and a half years since the Myanmar junta, the military has killed nearly 2,000 people, arrested 14,000, and sentenced 114 to death.

Phyo Zeya Thaw was one of Myanmar’s original Hip Hop artists at a time when people didn’t think Hip Hop would work. His band released their first Hip Hop album in 2000, and it soon went to the top of the charts. The band was political in its lyrics and really struck a nerve with the people of Myanmar.

Soon, Zeya Thaw got into politics and joined the NLD. Over the years, he was arrested for being a part of the Generation Wave, who used graffiti to spread anti-government messages during the Saffron Revolution in 2007. After the latest junta in 2020, the military has faced serious pushback from Myanmar’s citizens. To scare the people, they convicted Zeya Thaw in a closed courtroom and said that all his appeals are up and he will be hanged soon. Zeya Thaw was charged with coordinating an attack on a train that killed five police officers as well as killing an informant. Most people in Myanmar believe that the charges are untrue, and the junta is saying these things to scare the population into submission.

"Zeya Thaw loathed military dictatorship and injustice since the beginning," said Min Yan Naing, his friend and co-founder of Generation Wave, to the BBC. "His belief - for ending military dictatorship - was so strong that he was always ready to face whatever danger he came across. They [the junta] want to terrorize and frighten people. But as always, Zeya Thaw didn't give a damn about the death sentence. Even though he might feel something inside, he wouldn't show them [the junta]. That is Zeya Thaw."

Rest in peace Phyo Zeya Thaw.

[News from Mixmag and BBC]