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Myanmar

Rights groups slam Myanmar junta's rearrest of political prisoners

At least 100 released political prisoners have been taken back into custody

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: October 22, 2021 08:53 AM GMT

Updated: October 22, 2021 09:01 AM GMT

Rights groups slam Myanmar junta's rearrest of political prisoners

A man is reunited with his family outside Yangon’s Insein Prison following his release on Oct. 18 after authorities announced an amnesty for more than 4,300 political prisoners. (Photo: AFP)

International and local rights groups have slammed Myanmar's military regime for rearresting political prisoners who were freed days earlier under an amnesty.

On Oct. 18, junta chief Min Aung Hlaing granted amnesties to 4,320 people facing trial for their role in protests against the Feb. 1 coup along with 1,316 others “out of respect for the humanitarian cause.”

At least 100 political prisoners, however, have been rearrested and taken back into custody, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

It said some prisoners were released then cynically rearrested as soon as they arrived home. Some others were told they were on the release list, taken to the jail entrance, only to be taken back to prison to face additional charges.

“The rearrest of released detainees is a form of physical and mental torture, not only to the political detainees but also their families,” the group said in an Oct. 21 statement.

At least 1,183 people have been killed and more than 9,000 arrested by the junta since the coup, according to AAPP.

The partial release of wrongfully held detainees should not distract from the junta’s egregiously abusive rule, which hasn’t changed

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has condemned the amnesty as the junta’s recent prisoner releases are limited in scope and do not reflect a broader change in the military's respect for human rights.

“The partial release of wrongfully held detainees should not distract from the junta’s egregiously abusive rule, which hasn’t changed,” Linda Lakhdhir, Asia legal adviser at HRW, said in an Oct. 21 statement.

“Some of those released have already been rearrested. The junta should release all those unjustly held since the coup, including high-profile political figures, and end all arbitrary arrests.”

Eleven of the 38 people released in Meikhtila, central Myanmar, including a member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, were rearrested immediately after their release and are now facing charges under Myanmar’s Counter-Terrorism Law, according to right groups and media reports.

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HRW has called on concerned governments to impose tougher economic measures against the military, its leadership and its vast business activities to cut off the military’s sources of foreign revenue, most of which is kept outside Myanmar in foreign banks.

“The releases appear to be a cynical gesture to blunt growing international pressure to sanction the junta and its generals,” Lakhdhir said.

The latest amnesty by the military regime came just three days after ASEAN excluded the junta chief from attending its summit from Oct. 26-28.

The regime has been facing strong resistance from newly emerged militia groups and some ethnic groups inside the country, while the United States, United Kingdom and the European Union have weighed in through sanctions and diplomatic pressure from ASEAN.

Christine Schraner Burgener, UN special envoy for Myanmar, warned that the country already faces an internal armed conflict and could be a failed state if power isn't returned to the people in a democratic way.

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