Myanmar junta releases first batch of anti-coup protesters

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Myanmar protests
Myanmar protests

Myanmar on Monday evening started releasing people imprisoned after the military coup following an announcement on state television that a total of 5,600 people are to be freed.

This came after junta chief Min Aung Hlaing was barred from attending an upcoming regional summit for his failure to cooperate in de-escalating the country’s crisis.

According to the announcement, the junta will free 4,320 people who are currently charged with various offences, as well as 1,316 people convicted of what it termed anti-coup activities.

More than 600 people have been freed from prisons around the country so far.

They included one of the spokesmen for Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), Monywa Aung Shin, the highest-ranking party official to be released so far.

The military justified seizing power on February 1 by alleging widespread voter fraud during a general election in November, which saw a landslide win for the NLD.

Hundreds of people were waiting outside the various prisons across the country to see their family members and friends on Tuesday.

“Two of my friends were released last night. I waited since the evening in front of Insein prison and was very happy to see them.” Lin Lin from Yangon told dpa.

“International pressure works. Historically the release of political prisoners only happens when the juntas want to ease international pressure and gain legitimacy,” human rights activist Wai Wai Nu said on her Facebook page.

The release is “clearly not because the junta has had a change of heart,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews. He said that people were still being arbitrarily arrested and persecuted for merely exercising their basic human rights.

According to the non-profit Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), at least 1,181 people have been killed and more than 9,043 have been arrested since the coup and 7,355 people are still being detained.

Andrews said the amnesty was due to pressure “that is being exerted on the junta from inside and from outside of Myanmar.”

He said many had suffered greatly in prison. “Many of those detained to date were tortured, some to death, others were victims of sexual assault; some were infected with Covid-19 and perished while in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.”

He said it was outrageous that citizens were being arbitrarily detained in the first place.

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