Myanmar released more than 600 prisoners from prison on Wednesday, amid renewed outrage over the junta’s brutal violence against protesters.
The regime has released a deadly wave of violence as it fights to quell nationwide protests against the dismissal and arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1.
The 75-year-old Nobel laureate was scheduled to have a court hearing on Wednesday in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw, on crimes that could see her permanently banned from political office.
However, her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said the hearing was adjourned until April 1 due to video conferencing problems caused by a shutdown in the Internet.
The commercial hub in Yangon released more than 600 people held to protest the coup on Wednesday from Insein Prison.
“We released 360 men and 268 women from the Insein prison today,” a senior prison director told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Lawyer Khin Maung Myint, who was in the Insein prison to hear two other clients, said that 16 busloads of people left the prison at 10 am local (0400 GMT).
“They were sent to nearby police stations to go home … Some clients called me (after) to inform me of their release,” he told AFP.
Local media showed pictures of the prisoners on the buses flashing the three-fingered greeting – a sign of resistance to the anti-riot movement – while people waiting outside the prison waved to them and returned the gesture.
Activists called for a nationwide “Silent Strike” on Wednesday and the streets were bare in the cities of Yangon and Naypyidaw.
In the southern city of Myeik, puppets were placed along roads with small signs reading “We need democracy” and “We wish Mother Suu well.”
At least 20 children were killed
There was chaos overnight in Mandalay with barricades burning, arrests, homes rescued by security forces, beatings and machine guns ringing across neighborhoods, local media reported.
Three people were killed on Tuesday, including seven-year-old girl Khin Myo Chit, shot dead at her home in Mandalay, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a local monitoring group.
AFP has not yet independently verified the girl’s death.
The rescue group Save the Children and AAPP both say that at least 20 people under the age of 18 have been killed in the abuse.
“We are appalled that children continue to be among the targets of these deadly attacks on peaceful protesters,” Save the Children said in a statement.
“The safety of children must be protected in all circumstances and we reiterate our call on the security forces to end these deadly attacks on protesters immediately.”
The charity said it was also very concerned that “hundreds of young people” were being held in custody.
Myanmar’s junta on Tuesday defended its seven-week crackdown, insisting it would not tolerate “anarchy.”
The AAPP has verified 275 deaths since the coup, but warns that tolls may be higher and says more than 2,800 people have been detained.
Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun dropped the death toll to 164, labeling the victims “violent terrorists” at a Tuesday news conference in the capital Naypyidaw.
Suu Kyi transplant claim
Suu Kyi’s lawyer said that on Wednesday morning there was a large police presence outside the court gates and lawyers were not allowed to enter the building.
Khin Maung Zaw said he has still not been able to speak to his client in private.
Suu Kyi faces several criminal charges, including possession of unlicensed walkie-talkies and violations of coronavirus restrictions by organizing a 2020 campaign event.
She is also being investigated for allegations of corruption.
The military junta claims that the detained prime minister of Yangon admitted to giving Suu Kyi $ 600,000 in cash, along with more than 11 kilograms of gold ($ 680,000).
The junta has also targeted the media.
Thein Zaw, a photographer for the Associated Press who has been accused of “spreading fake news”, is also guilty of a second lawsuit in a court in Yangon’s infamous Insein Prison on Wednesday.
If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison.
He was arrested when he covered a protest at the end of last month with other journalists.
According to a local surveillance group, more than 40 journalists and photographers have been arrested since the coup last month.