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Myanmar junta releases thousands of jailed anti-coup protesters

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Relatives greet their loved ones who were released from the Insein prison in Yangon on June 30, 2021, following a surge in arrests of protesters since the February military coup. (Photo by – / AFP)

Myanmar authorities released more than 2,000 anti-coup protesters from prisons across Myanmar on Wednesday, including local journalists jailed after reporting critically on the junta’s bloody crackdown.

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Myanmar has been rocked by massive protests and a brutal military crackdown since the February coup that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi and her government.

More than 880 civilians have been killed in a crackdown by the State Administration Council — as the junta calls itself — and almost 6,500 arrested, according to a local monitoring group.

A crowd of at least 200 people had gathered outside the colonial-era Insein prison in Yangon from Wednesday morning after authorities announced the amnesty, an AFP reporter said.

Pressing up against the barricades, many held umbrellas to shelter from light rain, footage on local media showed, with one waiting woman holding a flower.

One man waited outside the prison in the hopes that his daughter, a protester, would be among those released.

“I am very proud of her,” he told AFP.

“I will encourage her to fight until they win.”

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By the evening a total of 2,296 protesters had been released from prisons around the country, the junta’s information team said in a statement.

Journalist Kay Zon Nway of Myanmar Now — a news outlet that is fiercely critical of the junta — was among those freed from Insein prison, the outlet said in a statement.

She said she had experienced “many things,” in the notorious jail, but added that she would explain later.

United States journalist Danny Fenster is being held at the same prison after being detained on May 24.

There were no foreigners among those released from Insein on Wednesday, a prison official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

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In February, the junta released around 23,000 prisoners, with some rights groups at the time fearing the move was to free up space for opponents of the military as well as to cause chaos in communities.

Ousted leader Suu Kyi, who has been detained since the coup, asked the people of Myanmar to stay “united” in the face of military rule, her lawyers relayed Tuesday, as she reappeared in a junta court.

The Nobel laureate, and daughter of independence hero General Aung San, has been invisible to the outside world bar a handful of courtroom appearances

Suu Kyi, 76, has been hit with an eclectic raft of charges. She could face more than a decade in prison if convicted on all counts.

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