Myanmar military announces plans to release around 2000 prisoners
Meanwhile, thousands of people continue to flee the country following armed clashes
by: Julie Sulser
Earlier this year, on the 2nd of February, the military retook power in Myanmar overthrowing the elected civilian government following unsubstantiated claims of a fraudulent election. The country’s democratic leaders were detained and later charged with a range of offences while remaining in house arrest as trials are ongoing. This coup has led to months of wide-spread anti-military protests and strikes, during which hundreds have been killed by security forces and thousands arrested.
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, more than 5200 people remained detained as of Wednesday the 30th of June. Now some of those may be released as
state television confirmed that 2000 prisoners were set to be free later that day.
Although no list has been made public, the BBC reported it is likely to include some of those arrested in anti-government protests and for speaking out against the military following the coup. A day prior to the announcement, charges were dropped against 24 celebrities that had been on the wanted list for incitement after publicly speaking out against the coup.
According to Prison Chief Zaw, 700 of the prisoners set to be freed are inmates in Yangon’s colonial-era Insein jail. Following the announcement, hundreds of people gathered outside the prison to await the release of family members and friends.
Photo courtesy of Gayatri Malhotra via Unsplash.
Simultaneously, thousands of people across the country continued to flee following clashes between the military and armed groups. Conflicts that have been ongoing for several decades in Myanmar’s borderlands have flared up following the coup and many newly founded groups have also taken up arms.
Over the past month, thousands were displaced in Myanmar’s eastern Kayah state after fighting between the military and both established and newly formed armed groups in the region. UN special envoy Christine Schraner Burgener warned earlier this month that
"the risk of a large-scale civil war is real."
This was echoed by the National Unity Government’s spokesperson, who warned that communities were increasingly taking up arms to protect themselves from military crackdowns and the country was “on the road to civil war.” The National Unity Government is the country’s parallel government, which was formed by pro-democracy politicians in April.
On Friday, the 18th of June, the General Assembly passed a resolution urging the military to respect the election results of last November and to release political detainees
as well as calling for a halt to the flow of arms to Myanmar. Myanmar’s ambassador to the UN, Kyaw Moe Tun, a member of the disposed civilian government, voted in favour of the resolution. He has previously spoken out against the coup and has rejected claims by the military that he does not represent the country. The resolution further called for the implementation of the 5-point consensus that the military and ASEAN agreed on earlier in April, to halt violence and enter dialogue.