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Myanmar military frees 23,000 prisoners, detains election officials

By Jean Lotus
Myanmar military frees 23,000 prisoners, detains election officials
Protesters gather in Yangon, Myanmar, on Monday amid confrontations between military authorities and activists related to the forced military takeover of the government on February 1 and the arrest of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Photo by Xiao Long/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 12 (UPI) -- The new military government in Myanmar said Friday it has released more than 23,000 prisoners, while civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other politicians and activists remain in detention.

Coup leader and military commander Min Aung Hlaing and the State Administrative Council ordered the release of about 23,300 prisoners to mark Union Day, a national holiday in Myanmar.

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Among the prisoners released were Rakhine politician Dr. Aye Maung and writer Wai Hin Aung, who had both been sentenced to long prison terms in 2018 for high treason.

Others released include military members who had avoided service or sold drugs, and some Rohingya prisoners.

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The freed prisoners had to sign a waiver that they understood they would be re-arrested if they broke the law again.

Since the military takeover almost three weeks ago, more than 200 politicians and activists affiliated with Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy have been detained, according to the Myanmar Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Among them are several dozen election officials from the government's Union Election Commission, who are now being questioned in the military's investigation of purported voter fraud during last November's election, which resulted in large victories by the NLD.

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"The senior officers were told to write down that fraud happened," one commission official told The Guardian. "They were asked about voter lists as well.

"All election commission officials are in big trouble. The military is the one who made the fraud accusations, seized power, and is now doing investigations to confirm their claims."

As opposition protests continue across Myanmar, military authorities clamped down Friday on medical workers who organized anti-coup protests, The Irrawaddy reported. Many medical personnel closed hospitals and walked off the job in protest after the takeover.

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One surgeon in the northern Shan State said two plainclothes officers tried to enter his home Thursday night

"As a citizen, we have rights," Dr. Lynn Laytar told reporters. "They can't arrest anyone without reason. It is breaking the law. The police are intruding into someone's house. Trespassing is a shameful, criminal act."

The military took control of the government on Feb. 1, declaring a national emergency over what it considers an illegitimate election.

Hlaing also ordered a national curfew and banned protest groups from gathering in public.

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