Myanmar to release 5,000 people imprisoned for protesting coup

The move comes days after Myanmar was barred from attending ASEAN October summit

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Monday 18 October 2021 13:21 BST
File: Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar's armed forces General Min Aung Hlaing
File: Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar's armed forces General Min Aung Hlaing (AP)
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Myanmar will release over 5,000 people arrested for protesting against the military coup that wrested power from the civil government, the junta chief Min Aung Hlaing said on Monday.

A total of 5,636 prisoners will be freed as a part of the Thadingyut festival on 20 October. The decision comes days after the junta chief was excluded from the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit over his government's commitment to defusing the crisis.

The junta chief led the 1 February coup. According to United Nations estimates, more than 8,000 dissenters, including former leader Aung San Suu Kyi have been arrested by the junta.

At least 1,100 people have been killed since the coup and at least 120 have reportedly died in custody.

Mr Min Aung Hlaing on Monday also said that the military was committed to peace and democracy. He urged the ASEAN to consider alleged provocations carried out by its opposition the outlawed National Unity Government (NUG) and armed ethnic groups.

"More violence happened due to provocations of terrorist groups. No one cares about their violence, and is only demanding we solve the issue. ASEAN should work on that," he said in a speech on television where he appeared in civilian attire.

The NUG is a broad alliance of anti-coup groups that include members of Ms Suu Kyi's ousted ruling party. The group has backed the training and formation of militias called "People's Defence Forces" and has declared a nationwide rebellion against military rule.

After snubbing the junta leader in an unprecedented move, ASEAN decided to invite a non-political representative from Myanmar to its October summit. The 10-member bloc has been under international pressure to push back member state Myanmar to end the violence and free scores of political figures.

ASEAN foreign ministers held an emergency meeting last Friday after Myanmar refused to cooperate with the bloc's crisis envoy -- Brunei Second Foreign Minister Erywan Yusof. He was appointed in August to mediate in the crisis but abruptly cancelled a trip to Myanmar after he was told he would not be able to meet with Ms Suu Kyi.

Earlier in October, MS Suu Kyi's lawyer revealed that the 76-year-old is tired from her frequent court appearances. She has been charged with an array of offences, including breaking coronavirus protocols, illegally importing and possessing two-way radios, incitement to cause public alarm and violating the Official Secrets Act.

Myanmar authorities earlier released over 2,000 anti-coup protesters from prisons across the country in July, including journalists critical of the military regime.

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