The Myanmar junta wants to release the former British ambassador, the Australian adviser and the Japanese journalist

The Myanmar junta wants to release the former British ambassador, the Australian adviser and the Japanese journalist


Myanmar’s junta said Thursday it would release 700 prisoners, including a former British ambassador, a Japanese journalist and an Australian adviser to the ousted government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Southeast Asian country has been in turmoil since last year’s military coup and a bloody crackdown on dissent that left thousands jailed.

Former British envoy Vicky Bowman, Australian economic adviser Sean Turnell and Japanese journalist Toru Kubota “are being released to mark the national day,” a senior official told AFP.

Bowman, who served as ambassador from 2002 to 2006, was arrested with her husband in August for failing to indicate that she lived at an address other than that shown on her alien registration certificate.

They were later imprisoned for a year. Her husband, prominent artist Htein Lin, will also be released, the official said.

Sean Turnell was working as an aide to Myanmar civilian leader Suu Kyi when he was arrested shortly after the coup last February.

In September, he and Suu Kyi were found guilty by a closed junta court of violating the Official Secrets Act and sentenced to three years in prison each.

Kubota, 26, was arrested near an anti-government rally in Yangon in July along with two Burmese citizens and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

A source at the Japanese embassy in Myanmar told AFP that they had been “informed by the junta authorities that Mr Kubota will be released today”.

Kubota would leave for Japan “today,” they added.

Kubota is the fifth foreign journalist to be arrested in Myanmar, after US citizens Nathan Maung and Danny Fenster, Robert Bociaga of Poland and Yuki Kitazumi of Japan – all of whom were later freed and deported.

According to the Reporting ASEAN monitoring group, 48 journalists have been in detention across the country since March this year.

Families gathered outside Insein Prison in Yangon ahead of the expected announcement, an AFP reporter said.

– ‘Delighted’ –

“The release of Professor Turnell is remarkable news after being held hostage by the regime and his family and friends will be delighted,” independent analyst David Mathieson told AFP.

But he said the junta “shows no sign of reform and a mass amnesty does not absolve it of atrocities committed since the coup.”

Three former ministers of the ousted Suu Kyi government and jailed US citizen of Myanmar Kyaw Htay Oo would also be released, the junta official said.

The military’s crackdown on dissent since the ouster of Suu Kyi’s government has claimed the lives of more than 2,300 civilians, according to a local monitoring group.

The junta blames coup leaders for the deaths of nearly 3,900 civilians.

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