Myanmar’s military government released hundreds of prisoners detained during weeks of anti-coup protests on Wednesday in a rare gesture of reconciliation from the tough regime that killed more than 250 civilians in the protests. since it overthrew the elected government on February 1, witnesses said.
More than 400 people detained during the recent protests – most of them students from the largest city of Yangon – left the Insein Prison of today’s city and were taken on buses and returned to their homes. the town is far from the commercial center and the old capital.
“Yangon Regional Military Council member Colonel Win Htein told us prior to release that the army will only hold state power for only one year and it will be returned to the winning political party. , any party, in next year’s elections to be held. , ”Said a student from Tamwe after being released.
“Most of us are students and they say we are released as a sign of forgiveness from the Tatmadaw and if we are arrested again we will be charged under Section 505 (a) and served. go to prison, ”he said, referring to the defamation allegation that was widely used against those who criticized the government even before the coup.
The Association for Supporting Political Prisoners, a non-governmental organization, said a total of 628 people were released. At least 286 people were killed in the crackdown, including 12 on Wednesday and more than 2,000 people remain in custody or face unpaid charges, the AAPP said in a daily report.
During a change in Wednesday’s protest movement, government protesters in Yangon, Mandalay and other cities observed a “Silent Day” protest against the military, closing the market. , shops and offices and indoors in a silent demonstration against the military.
“The police and military used lethal force against us and was barely able to march on the streets. So we decided to hold a silent protest against the military dictatorship, close the markets and shops and all activities, ”said one resident in Mandalay.
The AAPP said in its daily update: “No one leaves their homes, shops and malls and no cars or residents are seen on the road, demonstrating the public’s solidarity against dictatorship again, ”said the AAPP in its daily update.
The military shutdown of the internet in some cities and towns left residents in some cities unaware of the protest and continued their daily activities.
The government house is empty
Government employees living in government housing quarters in Yangon and Mandalay are under pressure from authorities to leave their homes as punishment for participating in the National Civil Disobedience Movement of CDM). Some were asked to give up the movement if they wanted to stay in their government home.
Mandalay police posted notices on roadside lights on Sunday calling for CDM workers in the city’s Mya Nandar employee housing complex, home to 2,000 people from 200 families of major ministries. to return to work on Monday or move out of the employee’s property or face deportation.
“They posted the announcement on March 21 and some families have moved away since that day. But more than a third or nearly half have yet to leave, ”said an employee of the ministry of education. “Some people have nowhere to go and some have decided to go back to work. It’s a CDM-breaking plot. “
Employees of the Myanmar Railway Service in Mandalay, who joined the CDM, have also moved out of their government district, where about 1,000 people live after government pressure.
“We have now moved to places provided by knowledgeable people. We are all spreading out in different parts of the city, ”said a railroad employee who was not named for safety reasons.
“We hope to continue with CDM until we are successful. If we don’t succeed, we will have to find the means to survive, ”he added
The Railway Service staff in Yangon also faced a similar fate and families moved out on March 10.
A young man in Yangon said: “Some people like my father have returned to their villages to avoid arrest, but young people like me stayed to continue the protest.
A CDM advocate said: “Some people have moved where they have loved ones, but there are some people who have nowhere else to go and we are helping them.
“We rent out apartments to some of these people,” he added.
Committee representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CPRH), a shadow government of lawmakers elected in the November 2020 election that February 1 coup canceled due to unfounded claims on voter fraud, said it was raising cash and providing other forms of assistance to thousands of government employees who have been involved in the movement in the seven weeks since the coup.
Pressure on the media
Major General Zaw Min Tun, military spokesman, said at Naypyidaw on Wednesday that reporters who defied an order to contact the CPRH would be charged under the Illegal Associations Act, he said.
The regime has detained 45 journalists since February 1, with 28 released and 2 on bail.
“Their law mentions ‘supporting and helping’ illegal organizations, but the messengers don’t have this intention. We journalists just want to get the news out, ”said Myint Kyaw, a veteran journalist and former secretary of the Myanmar Press Council.
The legal clause “was previously used to arrest journalists whenever they wanted, but now they are making a public statement that they will use it to cover events,” he said. out in the water ”.
This is going back to the time of the previous military administration, ”added Myint Kyaw.
Information has become increasingly difficult to obtain since the government shut down wireless internet connections and imposed a partial shutdown of internet services in the country.
“We have no plans to reopen the Internet connection because the main cause of the recent violent protests stems from all kinds of online agitation,” Zaw Min Tun said at Wednesday press conference.
“We have found all the solicits coming from social media and the Internet. And so we will have to keep these restrictions until a certain point. “
Witnesses said security forces conducted a nighttime arrest taking advantage of the shutdown internet.
However, some people are still using Thailand’s PSI satellite dishes to watch independent Mizzima and DVB channels – prompting police and soldiers to move to eliminate satellite dishes in some areas.
“Armed police and soldiers entered our streets and checked our homes to see if we had any satellite dishes,” said a woman in a Yangon suburb.
“In Thidakwin Ward, they forcibly removed dishes from a house and detained the owner of the house. She was released unharmed after a few hours, ”she said. “Now we have removed our satellite dish and can no longer watch these TV channels.”
“This is a very serious human rights violation and the whole world is watching. The main reason for turning off the Internet is to prevent the world from seeing evidence of their atrocities, and we condemn it, ”said activist Nickey Diamond of Southeast-based Fortify Rights watchdog group. Asia said.
In Geneva on Wednesday, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution on Myanmar by unanimously voicing alarms about the “disproportionate use of force” since last month’s coup, calling for called the Myanmar army to restore its civilian regime and immediately freed the deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translation by Kyaw Min Htun and Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Paul Eckert.