Amnesty in Myanmar: military junta wants to release thousands

Status: 11/17/2022 07:31 a.m

The military junta in Myanmar apparently wants to release thousands of prisoners – including many foreigners such as the Japanese journalist Kubota. It is still unclear when the prisoners will be released.

According to the military junta, more than 5,700 prisoners will be released as part of a mass amnesty in the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar. Around 5,000 of them are men and almost 700 are women. Among them, several foreigners are to be released from prison. They had been sentenced to long prison terms by courts controlled by the generals. It was initially unclear when exactly they would be released or whether they were already free.

Australian economics professor Sean Turnell, former British ambassador to the country Vicky Bowman, her husband Htein Lin and Japanese journalist Toru Kubota would be released from custody, junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun said in local media.

Advisor to the ex-head of government should also be released

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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