Myanmar military offers amnesty to some protesters in hiding
(Reuters) – Myanmar’s ruling military has offered to waive charges against some protesters involved in demonstrations or strikes if they come forward to authorities, state media reported on Friday, prompting a sceptical response from several facing charges.
The Southeast Asian country has been in turmoil since the army toppled the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi six months ago, sparking a wave of protests and a civil disobedience movement that has paralysed parts of the state.
Since the coup, security forces have arrested more than 7,000 people, while 1,984 warrants are outstanding, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an activist group.
No amnesty would be offered to anyone wanted for crimes such as murder, arson or attacks on troops, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported, blaming incitement by members of Suu Kyi’s party for the civil disobedience campaign.
“Hence, those wishing to return home of their own accord… may trustfully contact the following telephone numbers or nearby police stations, district and township administration bodies,” said the state media report
Security forces have brutally suppressed protests, killing hundreds since the coup, and the idea of surrendering to military authorities was dismissed by some currently in hiding and facing charges.
“It might be a set up,” said Khin Myat Myat Naing, 35, who has been charged under section 505A of the penal code, which criminalises comments that could cause fear or spread false news and is punishable by up to three years in jail.
“They keep changing what they say all time. For example, their election promises,” added the 35-year-old travel blogger and influencer.
Myanmar’s military ruler Min Aung Hlaing this week pledged to hold elections by August 2023.
Shortly after the coup junta leaders promised elections within two years, so the reference was interpreted by some local media as extending the timeframe for polls by six months.
Sai Tun, 33, a freelance journalist, who is in hiding and facing charges under section 505A after taking photographs at protests, said he also did not plan to turn himself in.
“As long as the army is there, we will be fugitives,” said Sai Tun, who was shot in the leg at a protest and is pinning his hopes on local militias opposing the military eventually seizing back power.
Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Ed Davies, Editing by William Maclean