PHNOM PENH (REUTERS) – Asean “denounces and is strongly disappointed by” the Myanmar junta’s execution of four activists, Asean chair Cambodia said in a statement on Tuesday (July 26).

The executions went ahead despite appeals by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, in his capacity as Asean Chair, for the sentences to be reconsidered, the statement said.

It said this is an issue the grouping takes seriously.

“The implementation of the death sentences, just a week before the 55th Asean Ministerial Meeting is highly reprehensible,” the statement said, adding that it has presented a gross lack of will to support the bloc’s peace efforts in the country.

Myanmar’s ruling military announced on Monday it had executed the four men who were accused of aiding “terror acts”, sparking widespread condemnation of the country’s first executions in decades.

In the statement it issued on Tuesday, Cambodia, which heads Asean this year, said it was extremely saddened and deeply troubled by the executions.

The statement said Asean “strongly and urgently called on all parties concerned to desist from taking actions that would only further aggravate the crisis, hinder peaceful dialogue among all parties concerned, and endanger peace, security and stability, not only in Myanmar but the whole region”.

Malaysia added to the condemnation of the Myanmar junta’s execution, with its foreign minister saying on Tuesday the Asean member country sees the action as a crime against humanity.  

Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah also told a news conference that  Myanmar should not be allowed to send political representatives to any international ministerial level meetings, and the junta was making a mockery of Asean’s 5-point peace plan.

Sentenced to death in secretive trials in January and April, the four men were accused of helping a civilian resistance movement that has fought the military since last year’s coup and bloody crackdown on nationwide protests.