Myanmar Military Junta Releases 628 Protest-Related Detainees

By The Irrawaddy 24 March 2021

Four charity staff who were violently beaten by Myanmar’s security forces before being taken into custody and a detained photojournalist are among the 628 detainees released from Insein Prison in Yangon on Wednesday morning.

Four volunteers of the Mon Myat Sate Htar charity, who assisted protesters and residents injured by the security forces in North Okkalapa Township, were detained on March 3.

Video of the arrest showed the police kicking the crew in the head and beating them with rifle butts. Their ambulance was also destroyed by the police.

The charity’s chairman confirmed their release to The Irrawaddy. He said the staff are in good health after 21 days behind bars.

Associated Press photojournalist Ko Thein Zaw, who was detained on Feb. 27 while covering an anti-regime protest, was also released after incitement charges against him were dropped. He was detained for nearly a month. However, around 20 other detained journalists remain behind bars, of whom nine have been charged under Article 505(a) of the Penal Code.

The majority of Yangon’s streets were deserted on Wednesday as part of the nationwide silent strike against the regime but Insein attracted crowds as parents, relatives and friends waited for the releases, mostly of university students.

One of the released students told The Irrawaddy that the around 50 to 70 students in their group were put into halls in a separate building inside the prison. She and around 400 student protesters were detained during heavy crackdowns in Tamwe Township on March 3, which saw nationwide violence against protests.

She said they were given a few hours’ notice before their release. The students were told that only the group detained on March 3 were being released, of whom more than 30 students remain in custody.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which tracks detentions, said of those detained on March 3, at least 31 student protesters were charged under Article 505(a), which outlaws attempts to cause disobedience or disloyalty among government employees. It carries up to three years’ imprisonment.

The student called for the release of the remaining detainees.

A mother said: “I am happy as my daughter is released. But at the same time, I feel sorrow for other students in detention. They have done nothing wrong, just expressed their opinions freely.”

More detentions were made on Wednesday. In Yankin Township, Yangon, around 17 young activists, including a Grade 5 pupil, were violently dragged from their accommodation and detained, Daw Zin Mar Aung, the township’s MP, posted on Facebook.

U Tin Win, the chairman of the National League for Democracy’s legal support team in South Dagon Township, was also violently beaten as he was taken from his home at noon on Wednesday.

Since the Feb. 1 coup, more than 260 people have been killed and at least 2,800 detained, charged or sentenced by the regime.


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