Sunday, May 28

Myanmar: Junta leader says more than 5,000 anti-coup protesters will be released

The Myanmar junta leader has said that more than 5,000 people will be released after being jailed for protesting the army coup in February.

General Min Aung Hlaing, who led the coup, said a total of 5,636 prisoners will be pardoned and released before the Thadingyut Buddhist festival that begins Tuesday.

He spoke for the first time since Myanmar’s neighbors barred him from the upcoming ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) summit, which begins on Friday.

The board leader did not give details of who would be included on the list, and prison authorities did not respond to requests for comment.

More than 2,000 opponents of the coup detained in various prisons across the country, including local journalists arrested for criticizing the crackdown, had been released in late June.

They did not include American journalist Danny Fenster, who has been in Insein Prison near Yangon since his arrest on May 24.

The February 1 takeover of military power ended a brief decade-long period of democracy in the country.

Since then, the army has carried out a bloody repression with more than 1,100 civilians killed and some 7,000 detained, according to a local NGO, the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners (AAPP), which denounces cases of torture, rape and violence. extrajudicial executions.

ASEAN decided to exclude Min Aung Hlaing from its October 26-28 summit, in an unprecedented slight to the military leaders behind the coup. Instead, the bloc’s foreign ministers agreed that a Burmese “non-political representative” would be invited in his place.

The exceptional measure was taken after the board rejected requests to send a special representative to dialogue “with all interested parties,” including former civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

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Overthrown by the military in February, the 76-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner faces a series of legal cases that could lead to many years in prison.

The ASEAN statement noted “insufficient progress” in implementing its five-point plan, adopted in April, designed to help restore dialogue in Myanmar and facilitate the arrival of humanitarian aid.

Myanmar’s junta criticized the decision, accusing ASEAN of violating the rule of non-interference in the domestic politics of its member states.

Last week, Aung San’s lead attorney, Suu Kyi, said the board had prohibited her from speaking to journalists, diplomats or international organizations.

The former leader’s defense team was the only source of information about her trial, which takes place behind closed doors. Aung San Suu Kyi was called to testify for the first time on October 26.

Min Aung Hlaing did not mention ASEAN’s decision to exclude him in his speech, but suggested that the outlawed National Unity Government (NUG) and armed ethnic groups were trying to sabotage the ASEAN-led peace process.

The NUG, an anti-coup alliance that includes several members of the ousted Suu Kyi ruling party, recently declared a national rebellion against the military government.

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