The military-controlled government of Myanmar Thursday announced the release of some 5,700 prisoners. Among those released are Japanese documentary film maker Toru Kubota, former UK ambassador to Myanmar Vicky Bowman, American agricultural scientist Kyaw Htay Oo and numerous local personalities. Australian Sean Turnell was also amongst those granted amnesty. He served as advisor to former Prime Minister Aung San Suu Kyi before her overthrow in 2021 by military coup.Prisoners released were detained under Myanmar Penal Code § 505(a). The section was revised shortly after the military takeover to encompass broad offenses. According to the code, “Whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumour or report with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, any officer, soldier, sailor or airman, in the Army, Navy or Air Force to mutiny or otherwise disregard or fail in his duty” is guilty of civil disobedience. The revised language resulted in a crackdown on any speech considered to be anti-military or anti-government.The prisoner release comes days after Human Rights Watch urged governments to acknowledge Myanmar’s human rights record of “widespread and systematic abuses.” Since 2021, over 16,000 individuals are thought to have been detained by the military. A report by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), estimates that about 13,000 individuals remain detained, and some 2,500 have been killed. However, the true scope of political prisoners in the country is unclear. Access to trial proceedings and prisoner records are tightly restricted by the government.

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