BANGKOK (AFP) – A hip-hop pioneer who vowed to “never surrender” and a democracy activist who said prison was his second home – Myanmar’s execution of two prominent democracy fighters will only keep the flame of defiance burning, their families say.

AFP looks at the lives of Kyaw Min Yu – better known as “Ko Jimmy” – and Phyo Zeya Thaw, whose executions sparked shock and anger in Myanmar and around the world.

‘Never surrender’

Phyo Zeya Thaw burst on to the public stage in the early 2000s as a dragon-tattooed hip-hop pioneer whose subversive rhymes targeted the then-ruling junta.

The band skirted the military’s notorious censors by circulating bootlegged copies of songs recorded in underground studios or performing in private stage shows.

“We will never change, never give up, never surrender,” his band Acid rapped in one song.

“We will come out in full force in every tomorrow.”

He was jailed in 2008 for membership of an illegal organisation and possession of foreign currency and later told AFP that democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi – his “real life hero” – helped him get through three years in jail.

He later became close to Ms Suu Kyi, travelling with her to Europe in 2012 where she finally collected the Nobel prize that thrust her into the international limelight two decades earlier.

In the 2015 elections won by her National League for Democracy, the former junta prisoner won a seat in the military-built capital of Naypyidaw.

“You’re very young, you’re a hip-hop artist and you’re an ex-prisoner. How can you be an MP?” he told AFP in an interview after his election win.

“That’s something I hear quite a lot.”

He was arrested by the junta in November last year and accused of orchestrating several attacks on regime forces, including a gun attack on a commuter train in Yangon that killed five policemen.

Following a closed trial, he was sentenced to death in January.