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Myanmar Junta Releases 6,000 Prisoners, Including UK Ex-Envoy, Australian and Japanese

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Myanmar Junta Releases 6,000 Prisoners

In a rare gesture the Myanmar junta military announced Thursday they would release of nearly 6,000 prisoners. The release including former British envoy, a Japanese journalist, and an Australian economics adviser.

Since last year’s military coup in Myanmar a bloody crackdown, thousands of innocent people have been imprisoned in the Southeast Asian country.

A senior prison officer told France 24 that former UK envoy Vicky Bowman, an Australian economics adviser Mr. Sean Turnell, and Japanese journalist Toru Kubota will be released on National Day.

The junta stated that all three would be deported without specifying a date.

According to reporters around 200 people had gathered outside Yangon’s Insein prison, hoping their loved ones would be among those released.

Overall, 5,774 prisoners will be released, “including approximately 600 women,” according to a junta official, revising an earlier figure of approximately 700 women.

The Myanmar junta did not say how many of those released had been arrested during the Junta’s crackdown on dissent in its statement announcing the amnesty.

Vicky Bowman, who served as the UK envoy from 2002 to 2006, was arrested in August with her husband for failing to declare that she was residing at a different address than the one listed on her foreigner’s immigration registration certificate.

They were later sentenced to a year in prison. According to the military official, her husband, renowned Myanmar artist Mr. Htein Lin, will also be released.

UK Myanmar

UK, Myanmar Ties Deteriorated

According to a British diplomatic source, Bowman had not yet been released, but she was expected to be soon. Her husband was not mentioned in the junta statement as one who would be deported.

Ties between Myanmar and the UK have deteriorated since the military took over, with the junta this year calling the UK’s recent downgrading of its mission in Myanmar “unacceptable.”

Turnell was detained shortly after the February 2021 coup as an adviser to Myanmar’s democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

In September, a closed junta court found him and Suu Kyi guilty of violating the official secrets act. Sentencing them to three years in prison each.

Japanese photjournalist Toru Kubota, 26, was arrested in July 2022, close to an anti-Junta rally in Yangon, along with two Myanmar citizens, and sentenced to ten years in prison.

A source at Japan’s embassy in Yangon said that junta authorities had “informed them that Mr. Kubota will be released today.”

They said Kubota would leave for Japan and is the fifth foreign journalist detained in Myanmar since the coup, following US citizens Nathan Maung and Danny Fenster, Polish journalist Robert Bociaga, and Japanese photo journalist Mr. Yuki Kitazumi. All were later released and deported from Myanmar.

Myanmar junta

Junta Showing zero Signs of Reform

According to UNESCO, at least 170 foreign and domestic journalists have been arrested since the military coup, with nearly 70 still detained. San San Aye stated that she was awaiting the release of her brothers and sisters.

“Eight months ago, three of them were sentenced to 3 years each,” she said. “Their children are at home.” We will be overjoyed if they are released.”

“Mr. Turnell’s release is remarkable news after being held prisoner by the Junta,” independent analyst David Mathieson told reporters. “His family and friends will be delighted.”

He did, however, claim that the military junta has shown no sign of reform, this mass amnesty does not absolve them of the horrific atrocities committed by the military.”

“Thousands of people jailed by the military coup have done nothing wrong, they shouldn’t have been imprisoned in the first place,” according to amnesty international regional office spokesperson.

Three former ministers from Suu Kyi’s deposed government, as well as detained US-Myanmar citizen Kyaw Htay Oo, were also scheduled be released, according to a junta official.

According to a Myanmar Now, more than 2,300 civilians have been killed since the military cracked down on dissent after deposing Suu Kyi’s government.

The military junta blames anti-coup fighters for nearly 3,900 civilian deaths.

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