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Myanmar’s military junta releases 2,200 prisoners

Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a human rights group, said that more than 4,000 political prisoners remain in detention

IANS |

Myanmar’s military junta has released more than 2,000 prisoners in the last two days in a possible effort to deflect growing global criticism.

Most of those released had been charged with incitement for joining anti-regime protests, according to the regime’s spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun.

“A total of 2,296 people have been released. They took part in protests, but not in leading roles. They didn’t participate in violent acts,” he told the Burmese media on Thursday.

But prominent activists and National League for Democracy MPs were not among those released.

The regime had detained 6,421 people will Tuesday, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a human rights group.

AAPP functionaries said that more than 4,000 political prisoners still remain in detention.

Yangon’s notorious Insein Prison has released 721 detainees, including Myanmar Now reporter Ma Kay Zon Nway, who was in detention for more than four months.

She was arrested in late February while covering a protest in Yangon and charged with incitement.

“I didn’t have to sign any pledge for the release,” she told IANS over FB Messenger.

The other five journalists released from Insein in the last two days were Ko Aung Ye Ko from 7 Day News, Kay Zon Nway of Myanmar Now, freelance editor Ko Banyar Oo, freelance reporter Soe Yarzar Tun, Ye Myo Khant of the Myanmar Pressphoto Agency and Hein Pyae Zaw from Zeekwat Media.

All of them were detained in late February while covering anti-regime protests in Yangon and charged with incitement.

Numerous journalists, including Frontier Myanmar’s managing editor Danny Fenster, editor-in-chief of the Thanlyin Post Ma Tu Tu Tha, Mizzima News Agency co-founder Ma Thin Thin Aung and Myitkyina Journal’s reporters still remain in prison.

Prisons in Pathein, Dawei, Shwebo, Lashio and other places also released detainees on Wednesday and Thursday.

The releases came after the junta dropped charges against 24 celebrities who had booked for incitement to anti-regime activism.

In late March, the regime had released 628 alleged protesters.

The AAPP said in a statement that none of those detained should have been seized in the first place and asked if more innocent civilians would be detained and about those still being held, many of whom are being tortured.

“Any release must aim at real reform and include the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Violence must end and those who committed torture and murder brought to justice. The junta is releasing people while arrests continue,” AAPP joint-secretary U Bo Kyi told IANS.

He said the international community must not accept this as relaxation and continue pressuring for the release of all political prisoners and the return of democracy.

The spate of release began last week when Aung Saan Suu Kyi’s media chief U Zaw Htay was released after five months in detention.

A former soldier-turned-Suu Kyi loyalist, Zaw Htay had upset junta chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing by his strident critique of the military takeover.