Myanmar junta to release 700 prisoners from Yangon's Insein jail

Myanmar authorities will free around 700 prisoners from Insein Prison in Yangon on Wednesday, prison chief Zaw Zaw told Reuters.

The prison chief said he did not have a list of those released, but BBC news in Burmese reported that it included people accused of incitement after speaking out against the coup.

A crowd gathered in front of Insein Prison, a colonial prison on the outskirts of the commercial center of Yangon, before the release, according to photos on social media.

The news portal Myanmar Now reported that around 2,000 prisoners would be released across the country. A correctional facility officer declined to comment.

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Since the junta toppled Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government on February 1, the authorities have faced daily strikes that paralyze official and private business, while ethnic uprisings that have plagued Myanmar for decades have also flared up.

Many people have been arrested under Section 505A of the Criminal Code, which criminalizes comments that could create fear or spread false news and face up to three years in prison.

According to the activist group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, more than 5,200 people are in custody. It is also said to have killed 883 people – a number challenged by the junta.

On Tuesday, army-run Myawaddy TV said authorities had dropped charges against 24 celebrities found wanted after anti-government comments under the anti-sedition law.

Actors, athletes, social media influencers, doctors, and teachers have been listed among hundreds of people wanted for their opposition to the junta.

Suu Kyi, 76, has been in custody with other members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party since the military toppled her elected civilian government.

She is charged with a range of criminal offenses ranging from bribery and violating coronavirus protocols to illegally possessing radios and inciting crimes against the state – allegations that her lawyers dismiss.

The military said it took power after accusing Suu Kyi’s party of a rigged vote that brought it to power in a November poll, despite the then-electoral commission dismissing its complaints. The NLD said it won fair.

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