Myanmar’s junta said on Thursday it will release 700 prisoners, including a former British ambassador, a Japanese journalist and an Australian adviser to Aung San Suu Kyi’s ousted government as part of a prisoner drive to mark the country’s National Victory Day.
The Southeast Asian country has been in turmoil since a military coup last year and a bloody crackdown on dissent that has seen thousands jailed.
Former British envoy Vicky Bowman, Australian economic adviser Sean Turnell and Japanese journalist Toru Kubota “will be released to mark National Day”, a senior officer told AFP.
Bowman, who served as ambassador from 2002 to 2006, was jailed along with her husband in August for failing to declare that she lived at an address other than that listed on her alien registration certificate.
They were later imprisoned for a year. Her husband, prominent artist Htein Lin, will also be released, the official said.
Sean Turnell was working as an adviser to Myanmar’s civilian leader Suu Kyi when he was arrested shortly after the coup last February.
In September, he and Suu Kyi were convicted by a closed junta court of violating the Official Secrets Act and jailed for three years each.
Kubota, 26, was arrested in July near an anti-government rally in Yangon along with two Myanmar nationals and jailed for 10 years.
A source at Japan’s embassy in Myanmar told AFP they “have been informed that Kubota will be released today” by junta authorities.
Kubota was due to go to Japan “today,” they added.
Kubota is the fifth foreign journalist to be detained in Myanmar, following US citizens Nathan Maung and Danny Fenster, Robert Bociaga of Poland and Yuki Kitazumi of Japan – all of whom were later released and deported.
As of March this year, 48 journalists remain in custody across the country, according to the monitoring group Reporting ASEAN.
Families gathered outside Insein Prison in Yangon ahead of the expected announcement, an AFP reporter said.