Europe

Myanmar junta frees hundreds held for anti-coup protests

Hundreds of people imprisoned for protesting last month’s coup were released Wednesday in the first apparent gesture by the military to try to placate the protest movement.

AP news agency cited witnesses outside Insein Prison in Yangon as saying they saw busloads of mostly young people, looking happy with some flashing the three-finger gesture of defiance adopted by the protest movement. State-run TV said a total of 628 people were freed.

The prisoners appear to be the hundreds of students detained in early March while demonstrating against the February 1 coup that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners says it has confirmed the killings of 275 people in connection with the post-coup crackdown, with additional deaths still unverified.

It also says that as of Tuesday, it had verified arrest or charges against 2,812 people, of whom 2,418 remain in custody or with outstanding charges.

Demonstrators on Wednesday tried a new tactic that they dubbed a silence strike, calling on people to stay home and businesses to close for the day.

The extent of the strike was difficult to gauge, but social media users posted photos from cities and towns showing streets empty of activity save for the occasional stray dog.

The online meme posted to publicize the action called silence “the loudest scream” and explained its purpose was to honour the movement’s fallen heroes, to recharge protesters’ energy and to contradict the junta’s claims that “everything is back to normal.”

The new tactic was employed after an extended onslaught of violence from security forces.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners recorded three killings in Mandalay on Tuesday, though some other reports said there were five.

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