Coup detainees reunited with families

World | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 20 Oct 2021

Newly released anti-coup protesters in Myanmar were reunited with their families outside a Yangon prison yesterday in tearful scenes on the second day of a junta amnesty as international pressure mounts on the regime.

Myanmar has been in chaos since a coup in February, with more than 1,100 civilians killed in a bloody crackdown on dissent and more than 8,000 arrested, according to a local monitoring group.

The military said it would free more than 5,000 people to mark the three-day Buddhist Thadingyut festival, sending anxious families rushing to prisons, joyful at the prospect of reunions after months apart.

"I've missed you so much," a mother wept over her newly released son, as she cradled him. "I'm so proud of you."

She was among hundreds who had gathered again yesterday outside the colonial-era Insein prison in Yangon, some carrying flowers and placards bearing the names of their relatives.

Buses pulled out, with former detainees inside giving the thumbs up through the windows to the cheering crowd, some of whom flashed the three-fingered salute - a sign adopted by the democracy movement.

Than Toe Aung Was - imprisoned for about six months - was greeted by his jubilant sister outside.

"I would not say why I was arrested," he said, urging people to "move forward for the future."

"I'm happy for my release. But I will have to try for those who are not released," he added.

The amnesty was "a tactical response to a pretty hostile domestic and international environment," said Richard Horsey of the International Crisis Group.

"These kinds of cynical moves may have worked 20 years ago but it will do nothing to improve the standing of this regime."

Myanmar authorities released more than 2,000 anti-coup protesters from prisons across the country in June.

The amnesty over Thadingyut comes with the military under increasing pressure to engage with its opponents, nearly nine months after seizing power and ousting civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

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