During a mass amnesty for political prisoners across Burma, the junta released only one journalist from prison in Shan State this week.
Kyaw Zin Hein, a photojournalist with Tachilek News Agency, was freed from Kengtung Prison on Tuesday afternoon, 19 October. The armed forces had arrested the cameraman in eastern Shan State on 15 May and charged him with incitement under Article 505 (a).
The regime leader Sen-Gen Min Aung Hlaing claimed to have released more than 5,000 prisoners, but at this stage it’s difficult to say how many people were actually freed. Moreover, the armed forces immediately re-arrested some of those released, including National League for Democracy (NLD) members from the former government and several celebrities.
According to the advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, the regime rearrested 110 political prisoners after their release.
Journalists in Shan State who weren’t released include Nang Nang Tai, the editor of Cambawza Tai and its reporter Nang Win Yee, and publisher Tin Aung Kyaw. Mya Won Yan, a journalist from Thanlwin Thwaychin, wasn’t released. Lway Am Phoung, formerly with Shwe Phi Myae News and Sai Si Thu, accused of being a reporter, also remain in prison.
Elsewhere in the country, Min Nyo and Aung Kyaw of DVB, Zaw Zaw, a freelancer, and Thin Thin Aung, both of Mizzima, and citizen journalist Thet Naing Win were released from 18-19 October.
The junta released Myo Myat Pan, Aje and Christopher of Myitkyina News Journal, Chan Bu of The 74 Media, La Raw of Kachinwaves, Htet Myet Thu of The Voice of Thanbuzayat, Tue Tue Tha of Thanlyin Post, Naing Lin Tun of Dakhinna Insight Media and Aung Kyaw Oo of Tomorrow News.
NLD politician Khin Maung Tint, who ran and won in Tachileik Township in 2020, was released from prison on 19 October, and his wife Khin Mar Oo, a teacher, was released a day earlier.
In Lashio, 11 released people were forced to sign a statement pledging not to protest against the regime or they’d be charged again, including for their previous offences. “I think they’ll continue to monitor all those released from prison, so we need to be careful,” a 30-year-old man released from Lashio told SHAN.
Danny Fenster, the managing editor of Frontier Myanmar magazine, arrested in May when attempting to return to the US, wasn’t among those released.
The prisoners’ release came after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations decided to bar Min Aung Hlaing from joining its summit because the regime wasn’t complying with a five-point agreement signed in April in which it pledged to engage in dialogue and de-escalation to end violence in the country. The 10-member bloc said it’ll accept a non-political representative from Burma.
Sai Wan Hlaing Kham, a member of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, which won the 2020 election in Lashio Township, was pleased to see the prisoners released but pointed out that caution was needed while the country was under a military dictatorship.