Release and Rearrest of Political Prisoners Underscores Cruelty of the Junta

October 29th, 2021  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  8 minute read
Featured image

“It is clear, the military junta is targeting the mental wellbeing of not only the political prisoners, but their children and family members.”

Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

The release of some political prisoners on 18 October, people who should never have been arrested in the first place, is nothing more than a public relations exercise for the military junta in an attempt to reverse ASEAN’s decision to exclude them from the ASEAN Summits. It follows a similar tactic of previous Myanmar military regimes. That over 100 were rearrested almost immediately, that arrests and violence continued at a peaceful protest in Mandalay on the same day as the so-called ‘amnesty,’ and the militarisation of Chin State, Sagaing and Magway Regions in preparation for a major military offensive, are more reflective of the political ambitions of the junta.

On 18 October, a televised announcement by military junta leader, Min Aung Hlaing, stated that 5,600 people would be released or have their charges dropped. Over 9,000 people have been arrested or charged since the attempted coup on 1st of February. The timing of the release is not a coincidence. Diplomatic pressure from ASEAN surrounding the non-invitation of Min Aung Hlaing to their summits means that there is increased international scrutiny on their violence and brutality. Yet, despite the joy of being free again for some people, the immediate rearrest of at least 110 people is a cruel, heartless act that is designed to weaken the mental resolve and inflict psychological torture on people who were peacefully resisting an illegitimate and violent coup attempt by the Myanmar military. As a statement by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners points out, “It is clear, the military junta is targeting the mental wellbeing of not only the political prisoners, but their children and family members.” Furthermore, the lack of transparency in terms of who exactly has been released, the actual number, and the continuing detention of several thousand innocent people reflects the total lack of sincerity on the part of the junta.While for those released, they have been warned not to participate in any anti-coup activities and would be forced to serve the rest of their sentences if rearrested. In fact, on the same day that people were released, the junta was cracking down violently on a peaceful protest in Mandalay. Soldiers, some in plainclothes, drove into the protesters, before attacking them with their rifle butts, injuring 20 people and arresting a further ten.

The release of prisoners should also not distract from the ground situation, especially in the northwest part of Myanmar. In Chin State, Sagaing and Magway Regions, where resistance has been particularly resolute in the past few months, the army is amassing troops and hardware in preparation for a huge offensive against the People’s Defence Forces (PDFs) that have that have been stretching junta forces thin in this region of the country. The rainy season, which typically provides a respite to military offensives due to washed out roads, landslides, and difficult to traverse terrain, is coming to an end and all the indications based on ground movements are that it is this region that will be hit the hardest in military attacks, meaning a new wave of atrocities against the people. Recalling the build-up that preceded the 2017 genocide of the Rohingya, Burma Campaign UK is calling on the British Government, as the penholder at the UN Security Council, to convene an emergency meeting, urging them to “act now to prevent the risk of an even bigger human rights and humanitarian disaster unfolding in North-Western Burma.” Already, junta soldiers are burning down houses, destroying churches, and displacing people along the roads as convoys of troops are sent to the area. A soldier operating in Hakha, the capital of Chin State, who had defected and gave an interview to media outlet, DVB, outlined how the junta has been arresting people every day. In one case, two people who had been arrested were beaten to death, their bodies cremated, and doctors coerced into giving false causes of death on the death certificate.

The release of some political prisoners should not be viewed as anything other than a cynical attempt to distract ASEAN and other actors in the international community from the realities of the junta’s brutality. The rearrest of over 100 of those released is a more accurate reflection of the junta’s ongoing reign of terror. Given the impending military offensive in northwest Myanmar, scrutiny, vigilance and the will to action should be the order of the day for international bodies, particularly for the UN Security Council which has failed to act to stop the junta since the start of the attempted bloody coup. Until the junta releases all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally, including all those arrested following the attempted coup, stops all ongoing attacks and planned attacks, and surrenders themselves to the National Unity Government with full transparency and a public apology, amnesties such as that of the 18 October must be regarded as insincere, manipulative, and cruel. Furthermore international actors must take decisive concrete punitive measures in response. This includes a UN-mandated global arms embargo, targeted economic sanctions against military businesses and their associates, and referring the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court.


[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

Resources from the past week


Statements and Press Releases

Open Letter to ASEAN Leaders Re: Myanmar’s presence at the ASEAN Summit

By 52 Myanmar and International Civil Society Organizations

ACSC/APF 2021 – Day 2 Press Release

By ASEAN Peoples’ Forum

Press Release – 001

By ASEAN Peoples’ Forum

CDF-Matupi ၏ သတိပေးထုတ်ပြန်ချက် – ကြေညာချက် အမှတ် ၄/၂၀၂၁

By Chinland Defense Force – Matupi

စကစတပ်များ၏ လူသတ်၊ လူနေအိမ်မီးရှို့မှုနှင့်ပတ်သက်၍ သတင်းထုတ်ပြန် ကြေညာချက်

By Chin National Organization

Myanmar/Burma: Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the European Union to support the work of the ASEAN Special Envoy

By Council of the European Union

Bangladesh and UNHCR: Revise and Release Bhasan Char MoU, Ensure Freedom of Movement for Rohingya Refugees

By Fortify Rights

Joint Statement of Support for the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair on Myanmar

By Governments of the United States of America, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Timor-Leste, the United Kingdom, and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, on behalf of the European Union

ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ ASEAN Peoples’ Forum: Statement by Khin Ohmar

By Khin Ohmar, Progressive Voice

KNU Statement on the 6th Anniversary of Signing the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement

By Karen National Union

တနိုင်ငံလုံးပစ်ခတ်တိုက်ခိုက်မှုရပ်စဲရေးသဘောတူစာချုပ် (Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement – NCA) လက်မှတ်ရေးထိုးမှု (၆) နှစ်မြောက် ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေငြာချက်

By Karen National Union

ပြည်သူများသို့အသိပေးကြေညာခြင်း (၂၀၂၁ ခုနှစ်၊ အောက်တိုဘာလ (၁၅) နေ့။)

By Karenni Nationalities Defense Force

Statement of the Chair of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

By Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brunei Darussalam

မဟာမိတ်များပူးပေါင်းစစ်ဆင်ရေး (၅)

By Monywa People Defence Force – MPDF

မုံရွာမြို့နယ် ပြည်သူ့ကာကွယ်ရေးတပ်ဖွဲ့ ၏ တိုက်တွန်းနှိုးဆော်ချက်

By Monywa People Defence Force – MPDF

မြန်မာ့မီးရထား CDM ဝန်ထမ်းများအား ဝန်ထမ်းအိမ်ရာမှ အတင်းအဓမ္မ ဖယ်ရှားနေသော လုပ်ရပ်များနှင့် စပ်လျဉ်း၍ ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာခြင်း

By National Unity Government of Myanmar

အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရ ပညာရေးဝန်ကြီးဌာန ကြေညာချက်အမှတ်(၃၅/၂၀၂၁) – ကြားကာလ အခြေခံပညာရေး စစ်ဆေးအကဲဖြတ်ခြင်း ဆိုင်ရာထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာချက်

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Education)

Declaration on Relations with Neighboring Countries and Border Security – Statement No. (5 / 2021)

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Statement No. (6 / 2021) – Myanmar’s Representation at the 38th and 39th ASEAN Summits and Related Summits in October 2021

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

မြန်မာနိုင်ငံလုံးဆိုင်ရာ CDM မီးသတ်ဝန်ထမ်းများ ကိုယ်စားပြုကော်မတီဖွဲ့စည်းကြောင်း ကြေညာခြင်း – ကြေညာချက်အမှတ် (၅/၂၀၂၁)

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration)

အထွေထွေအုပ်ချုပ်ရေးဦးစီးဌာန CDM ဝန်ထမ်းများ အုပ်ချုပ်မှုကော်မတီ ဖွဲ့စည်းကြောင်း ကြေညာခြင်း – ကြေညာချက်အမှတ် (၆/၂၀၂၁)

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration)

ကြေညာချက်အမှတ် (၈/၂၀၂၁) ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာခြင်း

By Pakokku People Defense Force

တစ်နိုင်ငံလုံးပစ်ခတ်တိုက်ခိုက်မှုရပ်စဲရေးသဘောတူစာချုပ် (NCA) လက်မှတ် ရေးထိုးခြင်း (၆)နှစ်ပြည့် အထိမ်းအမှတ် ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာချက်

By Peace Process Steering Team

Sixth Anniversary of the Signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) Statement

By Peace Process Steering Team

ဆားလင်းကြီးမြို့နယ် ပြည်သူ့ကာကွယ်ရေးတပ်ဖွဲ့ ဖွဲ့စည်းပြီးကြောင်း ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေငြာချက် – ကြေငြာချက်အမှတ် ၁/၂၀၂၁

By Salingyi Special Task Force

PDF-Kalay ၏ သတိပေးခြင်း

By People’s Defence Force – Kalay

အကြမ်းဖက်စစ်ကောင်စီ၏ ထောက်တိုင် များဖြစ်သည့် ရပ်ကွက်/ ကျေးရွာအုပ်ချုပ် ရေးမှူးများ ၊ ဌာနဆိုင်ရာဝန်ထမ်းများ၊ အား ပေးကူညီသူများသို့နောက်ဆုံးအကြိမ် ကြိုတင် သတိပေးခြင်း – ကြေညာချက်အမှတ် (၂၆/၂၀၂၁)

By People’s Defense Force – Kani

Save the Children responds to the latest escalation in violence in Myanmar, including harm done to children

By Save the Children

Press Statement of the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair on Myanmar

By Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair on Myanmar

တရားမဝင် သစ်မှောင်ခို ထုတ်မှုကို YDF-HteeLin မှဖမ်းမိကြောင်းသတင်းထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By Yaw Defense Force – YDF

PKPF ၏ သတင်းထုတ်ပြန်ချက် (၂၀၂၁ ခုနှစ်၊ အောက်တိုဘာလ (၁၁) ရက်နေ့။)

By Progressive Karenni People Force



Access Now to Telenor’s Board: Stop the sale in Myanmar

By Access Now

Reign of Terror: SAC Junta Attacks on Lives and Properties in Chin State and Northwestern Burma/Myanmar

By Chin Human Rights Organization

Local farmers oppose Ngwe Yi Pale’s planned coal mining expansion along Pang River in Tangyan, northern Shan State

By Shan Human Rights Foundation

Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”