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Myanmar pardons celebrities jailed for expressing anti-military views

Myanmar actor Pyay Ti Oo
Award-winning Myanmar actor Pyay Ti Oo is one of several celebrities who were detained for criticizing the military’s seizure of power.
(Khin Maung Win / Associated Press)
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Several top Myanmar celebrities who were detained for criticizing the military’s seizure of power were released from prison Wednesday under pardons issued by the ruling junta, state-run television reported.

The celebrities released from Insein Prison in Yangon include prominent film industry figures Lu Min, Wyne, Pyay Ti Oo and his wife, Eaindra Kyaw Zin, and popular model and actor Paing Takhon, MRTV reported.

All had been arrested for supporting the protest movement against last year’s military coup, which ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. They had been charged with incitement, which carries a possible three-year prison sentence, for encouraging government employees to join the protests.

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The TV report said the reason for their release was so that they could participate in nation-building through their work in the arts.

The report also said that Win Min Than, a popular blogger on beauty and fashion, received a pardon for her conviction for incitement but remained detained because she was also convicted of unlawful association.

A Malaysian who was convicted and imprisoned on drug charges in 2019 was also given a pardon Wednesday for what were described as humanitarian reasons.

Myanmar’s ruling military junta accuses Htun Zaw Win, whose professional name is Wyne, of encouraging government workers to join protests.

Feb. 10, 2022

More than 12,000 people have been arrested since the army takeover in February 2021, and more than 9,400 remain in detention, according to the Assistance Assn. for Political Prisoners, an advocacy group that monitors arrests.

Shortly after its takeover, the military government began issuing arrest warrants for celebrities, charging them with incitement for “spreading news to affect state stability.”

More than 100 celebrities were featured on wanted lists with their photos on state-run media. At least 15 were arrested last year, about half of whom were convicted by special courts inside Insein Prison.

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Charges were dropped against 24 artists and 10 social media personalities last October under an amnesty order from Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, head of the ruling military council.

At least four prominent artists including singers who were convicted on the same charge of incitement remain in prison, according to lawyer Khin Maung Myint.

The authorities continue to issue new arrest warrants, and according to the state-run Myanma Alinn Daily newspaper, at least 240 people have been arrested by security forces since Jan. 27.

The filmmaker Htun Zaw Win, better known by his professional name Wyne, was arrested last month after he returned to his apartment in Yangon after spending most of the past year on the run. The incitement charge against him was dropped.

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