Asia

Mass Amnesty in Myanmar: Military junta frees thousands of prisoners

The military junta in Myanmar has apparently released thousands of detainees. Among them are many foreigners such as the former British Ambassador Bowman.

The first of them have already left the country.

According to a spokesman for the military junta, more than 5,700 prisoners have been released as part of a mass amnesty in the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar. Among them are several foreigners as well as members of the opposition like the activist Mya Aye. They had been sentenced to long prison terms by courts controlled by the generals. The first of them have already left Myanmar.

Human rights activists, politicians and the families campaigned tirelessly for their release. The reason for the amnesty was the national holiday in former Burma. Among the foreigners are Australian economics professor Sean Turnell, former British ambassador to the country Vicky Bowman, her husband Htein Lin and Japanese journalist Toru Kubota.

Turnell and Bowman were first flown to Bangkok, a source close to the released told the dpa press agency. Kubota is expected back in Japan on Friday, a government spokesman said in Tokyo.

Advisor to the ex-head of government also free

The Australian Turnell is the former advisor to the ousted Prime Minister Aung San Suu Kyi. He was arrested shortly after the February 2021 military coup and was on trial for allegedly violating an official secrets law. At the end of September he was sentenced to three years in prison – to the horror of human rights activists around the world. The Australian government has repeatedly called for Turnell’s release. Professor colleagues have also been committed to him for many months.

Vicky Bowman was sentenced to a year in prison on alleged immigration violations in early September. Her Myanmar husband, the artist Htein Lin, was accused of aiding and also sentenced to one year in prison.

In October, Japanese journalist Toru Kubota was sentenced to 10 years for incitement to hatred and violations of communications and immigration laws. The documentary filmmaker was arrested in July after filming a protest in the country’s largest city, Yangon (Rangoon).

Reports of torture and show trials

Since the coup and Suu Kyi’s ouster from power, the military has cracked down on any oppositional resistance. Arbitrary arrests are frequent. There are also reports of severe torture in prisons. Foreigners are also targeted by the generals. Suu Kyi is being held in solitary confinement in a prison and has to face a series of new allegations in court.

Human rights activists speak of show trials. According to local human rights groups, more than 2,000 people have been killed and at least 14,000 arrested in protests and clashes.

In 2021, under pressure from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the military regime ordered the release of more than 5,600 prisoners across the country, including many from the notorious Insein Prison in Yangon.

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