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Myanmar to free over 5,000 political prisoners

The leader of Myanmar's ruling military junta has said the release of thousands of people jailed for taking part in anti-coup protests was for "humanitarian reasons."

Anti-coup protesters walk through a market with images of ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi at Kamayut township in Yangon. (AP)

Myanmar will release a total of 5,636 prisoners jailed for protesting the coup that ousted the civilian government, the head of the country’s military junta said Monday.

Min Aung Hlaing said he would free dissenters as part of the Thadingyut festiveal on October 20.

The junta chief said Monday he was committed to peace and democracy after the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) excluded him from a summit on October 26-28.

What has Myanmar’s leader said?

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Min Aung Hlang, who led the February 1 coup, said his government had its own five-stage plan to restore democracy in Myanmar.

He blamed the National Unity Government (NUG) and armed ethnic “terrorist groups” of trying to sabotage ASEAN attempts to help resolve the crisis.

“No one cares about their violence, and is only demanding we solve the issue,” said Min Aung Hlaing, adding that “ASEAN should work on that” rather than point the finger of blame at his junta.

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The NUG, which represents anti-coup parties and backed a nationwide rebellion against government forces, welcomed the ASEAN decision as “an important step,” said its spokesman Dr Sasa.

But instead, Sasa called on ASEAN to “recognize us as the proper representative” at the talks.

On Friday, Zaw Min Tun, a spokesman for Myanmar’s military junta, blamed “foreign interventions,” from the US and the EU for the junta’s exclusion.

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Instead, influential ASEAN leaders invited a “non-political representative” from the country to attend the meetings, which seek a “return to normalcy” in the troubled south east Asian state.

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi. (File)

What is the situation with former leader Aung San Suu Kyi?

On Friday, the lawyer of Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s former leader, revealed he had been gagged during ongoing trials against her.

Suu Kyi faces a number of charges including corruption, after she swept to power in 2015 elections.

Supporters and independent observers say the charges have been made up to strengthen the military grip on power.

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Suu Kyi’s lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, said earlier in October the 76-year-old Nobel peace laureate was “tired” of being in court for so long and called for the military court hearings to be more intermittent.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said that “the catastrophic developments in Myanmar since the coup… are generating clear potential for massive insecurity, with fallout for the wider region.”

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“Suffering and violence throughout the country are devastating prospects for sustainable development, and raise the possibility of state failure or a broader civil war,” Bachelet added.

First published on: 18-10-2021 at 04:06:23 pm
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