Myanmar to free more than 5,000 protesters

YANGON (AFP) – Myanmar’s junta chief yesterday announced the release of more than 5,000 people jailed for protesting against a February coup, days after a regional bloc delivered a major snub to the military regime.

There has been chaos in Myanmar since the coup, with more than 1,100 civilians killed in a bloody crackdown on dissent and more than 8,000 arrested, according to a local monitoring group.

More than 7,300 are currently behind bars, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

Junta Head Min Aung Hlaing said 5,636 prisoners will be freed to mark the Thadingyut festival later in October.

The announcement comes on the heels of ASEAN’s decision to exclude Min Aung Hlaing from an upcoming summit of the 10-country bloc over his administration’s commitment to defusing the bloody crisis. Min Aung Hlaing gave no details on who would be included in the list and prison authorities did not respond to AFP requests for comment.

Protesters holding up signs on saving ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. PHOTO: AFP

Myanmar authorities released more than 2,000 anti-coup protesters from prisons across the country in June, including journalists critical of the military government.

Those still in custody include the American journalist Danny Fenster, who has been held since being arrested on

May 24. More than 1,300 of those due to be released would be freed on the condition they sign agreements promising not to re-offend, Min Aung Hlaing said.

Such agreements were “basically a form of parole that entails constant menacing surveillance”, David Mathieson, an analyst formerly based in Myanmar, told AFP.