Myanmar Junta Releases Some Political Prisoners in Independence Day Amnesty

By The Irrawaddy 4 January 2023

Myanmar’s military regime has released the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) government’s Minister of Religious Affairs and Culture, Thura U Aung Ko, philanthropist and writer Daw Than Myint Aung and ex-NLD information officer, writer U Htin Lin Oo, along with some detained journalists, as part of the junta’s prisoner amnesty to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Myanmar’s independence from the UK.

U Htin Lin Oo after his release from Insein Prison on Wednesday.

The junta announced on Wednesday that 7,021 prisoners were freed from jails across the country. It is not yet clear how many political prisoners were among those released.

Family members said that former Brigadier General Thura U Aung Ko was released from Yangon’s Insein Prison on Tuesday night. The 75-year-old was arrested after the February 2021 coup and charged with alleged corruption. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison with labor in March 2021.

Relatives of Daw Than Myint Aung and U Htin Lin Oo were waiting at the gate of Insein Prison on Wednesday morning to welcome them. The pair were released Wednesday afternoon.

Daw Than Myint Aung was a member of the Yangon City Development Committee during the NLD’s time in power. She was arrested on the first day of the military takeover and sentenced to three years in prison for incitement.

Former NLD information officer U Htin Lin Oo faced the same charge as Daw Than Myint Aung, and was also sentenced to three years by the Insein Prison Court.

Daw Than Myint Aung is welcomed by family members after her release.

U Tun Kyi, the head of a political prisoners group, said that Thura U Aung Ko is known to be in poor health and that his release was a cynical ploy by the regime.

“The junta released the political prisoner hostages for its own political gain,” said U Tun Kyi, referring to international pressure on the regime to free political prisoners.

On Wednesday, Kyaw Zay Ya, the chief reporter of Mawkun Magazine, was released from Daik-U prison in Bago Region, but was then detained again by police for unknown reasons.

Family members of other detained journalists were eagerly awaiting the release of their relatives. The husband of Thuzar, a journalist arrested in September 2021 and sentenced to two years in prison under Section 505(a) of the Penal Code for spreading false news, said that she had been freed.

“I am now on my way to East Dagon Police Station to get her,” said her husband Ko Ye Ko.

Another journalist Sai Ko Ko Tun, a former reporter from the now defunct 7 Days News, was released from Dawei prison, too.

As of Tuesday, some 16,862 people have been detained by the junta since the coup, of whom 3,463 have been released, according to the rights group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

The AAPP’s joint secretary Ko Bo Kyi said that with many political prisoners still locked up, the regime’s amnesty does not herald any meaningful changes for Myanmar.

“That will happen only when Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, U Win Myint and all the other political prisoners are freed,” he added.

Both Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and U Win Myint were arrested on the first day of the coup. Former State Counselor Suu Kyi has been sentenced to a total of 33 years in prison, while ousted President U Win Myint has been given 12 years by the regime.