Myanmar junta frees several foreigners in amnesty of almost 6,000

YANGON, 17 Nov 2022:

Myanmar’s military junta released Australian economist Sean Turnell, economic adviser to the deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, along with the Japanese filmmaker Toru Kubota and the British diplomat Vicky Bowman today after an amnesty, a spokesman said.

Kubota, Turnell and Bowman were the three highest-profile foreigners detained and sentenced by the Myanmar junta after the coup that it led in February 2021 and are part of the nearly 6,000 prisoners released under an amnesty, according to Myanmar media.

Turnell, 57, was arrested a few days after the military uprising that ended a decade of fledgling democracy in the country, and sentenced in September to three years in prison for violating the Official Secrets Act.

The economist, an associate professor at Macquarie University in Sydney, was an economic adviser to the deposed and also imprisoned leader Suu Kyi at the time of the military coup.

Kubota, arrested in July while filming civil protests against the junta and sentenced to 10 years in prison for inciting dissent, violating Myanmar telecommunication laws and immigration laws, will return today to Japan, a foreign affairs ministry spokesman said.

The third high-profile foreigner released is Vicky Bowman, a former UK ambassador to Myanmar, arrested in August and sentenced shortly after to a year in prison for violating immigration law. She was accused of allegedly residing in a home not registered on her visa with her Myanmar husband Htein Lin, arrested and convicted of being an accomplice.

These convictions came after extended sanctions London imposed on the junta for the coup – which has generated a deep political, social and economic crisis, and unleashed a violence spiral with new civilian militias that have exacerbated the guerrilla war the country has seen for decades.

The army justifies the coup on alleged fraud during the November 2020 elections, the result of which was annulled and in which Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory, as it did in 2015, with the endorsement of international observers.

More than 2,400 people have died since the coup due to the violent repression carried out by security forces, who have shot to kill peaceful and unarmed protesters, according to data from Myanmar NGO Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners.

– EFE