Myanmar’s junta has released more than 23,000 prisoners to mark the traditional New Year’s holiday, including at least three political detainees, and the military leader behind the February coup has confirmed he will attend a regional summit later this month.
YANGON, Myanmar – The Myanmar junta on Saturday released more than 23,000 prisoners to mark a traditional New Year’s holiday, including at least three political prisoners, and the military leader after the February coup confirmed he would attend a regional summit later this month.
As security forces continued deadly actions, unconfirmed but credible accounts with photos on social media said three people were killed Saturday in the central city of Mogok, in Myanmar’s gem mining region.
According to the Association for Aid to Political Prisoners, which monitors victims and arrests, government forces have killed at least 728 protesters and passersby since taking power. The group says 3,141 people are in custody, including ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Among those released from Yangon’s Insein prison on Saturday were at least three political prisoners who were imprisoned in 2019. They are members of the Peacocks generation’s troupe who were arrested during New Year’s Eve celebrations for sketches entertained in front of military representatives in parliament and the military. involvement in work.
Their traditional style of acting is called Thangyat, a bunch of poetry, comedy and music with a sharp hint of satire. Several members of the troupe were convicted under a law banning the circulation of information that could endanger or demoralize members of the military. The actors may have drawn a special rage from the military as they performed in military uniforms.
Several members were also found guilty of online defamation for directly showing their performances. It is not clear if they were all released.
Another released prisoner was Ross Dunkley, an Australian entrepreneur in the newspaper, sentenced in 2019 to 13 years on charges of drug possession. His release was confirmed by his ex-wife Cynda Johnston, The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported.
Dunkley is a co-founder of The Myanmar Times, an English-language daily, but was forced to give up his stake in it. He became known for co-founding or acquiring English-language publications in former socialist states that sought foreign investment but were sometimes criticized for doing business with authoritarian regimes.
Early release of prisoners is common during major holidays, and this is the second series announced by the ruling junta since taking power.
After the release of more than 23,000 convicts to mark Union Day on February 12, reports surfaced on social media that authorities had recruited some to commit violence at night in housing estates to spread panic, especially by setting fires. Some areas responded by establishing their own neighborhood monitoring groups.
In March, more than 600 people released from anti-coup demonstrations were released from Insein prison, a rare conciliatory gesture by the military that emerged to quell the protest movement. Mostly it was young people caught swinging in street rallies, while those they considered to be protest leaders were kept locked up.
Neither the military government nor those who oppose it are showing any signs of withdrawal. Western nations have tried to put pressure on the military through diplomatic and economic sanctions with little effect.
Myanmar’s neighbors in Southeast Asia, worried about the prospects for regional instability, are also trying to force the junta back on the path to restoring democracy, or at least ending its violent repression.
A spokesman for the Thai Foreign Ministry in Bangkok said on Saturday that the head of the junta, Min Aung Hlaing, confirmed that he would attend the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – ASEAN – which will be held on April 24.
Tanee Sangrat told reporters in an SMS message that Brunei, the current chairman of the ten-member body, confirmed that he had proposed a date for a meeting at the group’s secretariat in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. Indonesia has taken the lead in calling for a special meeting to discuss the crisis in Myanmar.