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Myanmar Junta to Free More than 5,000 Jailed for Protesting Coup

Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar's armed forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing delivers his speech at the IX Moscow conference on international security in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, June 23, 2021.

The head of Myanmar’s junta announced Monday that more than 5,000 people who were arrested for taking part in anti-coup protests will be freed under a grant of amnesty.

Min Aung Hlaing made the announcement during a nationwide televised speech. It came after a decision by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to exclude him and other coup leaders from the upcoming October 26-28 summit. Instead ASEAN is inviting a non-political representative from the country. The 10-nation regional bloc cited the junta’s failure to implement a five-point plan aimed at restoring peace to Myanmar for its reasons not to invite Min Aung Hlaing.

“More violence happened due to provocations of terrorist groups,” Min Aung Hlaing said in a speech, where he appeared in civilian attire, according to Reuters. “No one cares about their violence, and is only demanding we solve the issue. ASEAN should work on that.”

Myanmar has been mired in turmoil since the military overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian-led government on February 1. The military responded to anti-coup demonstrations across the country since the takeover with a brutal crackdown that has left more than 1,100 people dead, according to a local monitoring group.

State television said the amnesty was based on humanitarian grounds and blamed the National Unity Government (NUG) and ethnic groups for the violence. NUG is made up of the remnants of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party and anti-coup groups.

The military said it overthrew the civilian government because of widespread fraud in last November’s general elections, which ended in a landslide victory for Suu Kyi’s party.

Some information for this report came from the Reuters and Agence France-Presse.