The newspaper reports that 647 prisoners were released from Insein prison in Yangon, while 80 were released from Mandalay prison. 4,320 other defendants currently in court will also be acquitted, a notice said in the newspaper.
The release follows the junta’s announcement on Monday that it would release more than 5,600 people arrested for demonstrating against the military regime since a coup in February. The released prisoners will have to sign a document pledging not to commit any act of violence against the country, the junta added.
Since the coup, Myanmar security forces have arrested more than 9,000 people, of whom about 7,355 remain in detention, according to the non-profit group Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners (AAPP).
The Southeast Asian country fell into chaos after the coup, with daily protests continuing for months and insurgencies erupting in border areas. A bloody crackdown has led to thousands of reported detentions, as well as numerous reports of torture.
In a statement, current ASEAN President Brunei said there had been “insufficient progress” on a roadmap to bring peace to Myanmar, adding that the group would “give space to Myanmar. Myanmar to restore its internal affairs and return to normalcy ”.
In response, Min Aung Hlaing blamed Myanmar’s opposition national unity government and various armed ethnic groups for the ongoing violence, and said ASEAN should have targeted them instead of the junta.
“More violence has occurred due to provocations by terrorist groups,” Min Aung Hlaing said in a speech on Monday. “No one cares about their violence and just demands that we fix the problem. ASEAN should work on it. ”
The comments, made on state television, are Min Aung Hlaing’s first remarks since the ASEAN announcement.
Shortly after, the AAPP said the junta’s decision to release the prisoners was “no coincidence” and was simply “a form of distraction for foreign governments” following the decision of the ASEAN.
“The junta will continue to refuse to be transparent about the individuals released and who remain in detention,” the AAPP said in a statement. “The freed ‘protesters’ were practicing the fundamental right to freedom of assembly against an attempted illegitimate coup. “
The organization called on the junta to release all political prisoners, including the fallen Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who faces numerous charges and has been under house arrest since February.
Captain Nyi Thuta, a former military officer now fighting the regime, also claimed that the junta only released the prisoners because Min Aung Hlaing “was kicked out of the ASEAN summit.”
“The release of the prisoners is just to alleviate international pressure, not out of good intention for the people or the nation,” he said, urging the junta to “immediately hand over power to the people”.
UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews welcomed the release of some prisoners, but said it was “scandalous” that they were held in the first place.
“The junta is releasing political prisoners in Myanmar not because of a change of mind, but because of pressure,” he said in a statement posted on Twitter.
Min Aung Hlaing proclaimed himself prime minister of a newly formed interim government in August, promising to hold new elections within two years and to work with a special envoy appointed by ASEAN.
Wayne Chang, Cape Diamond, and Hannah Ritchie contributed to this report.