Myanmar Spring Chronicle – May 03 Scenes
MoeMaKa, May 04 2023
World Press Freedom Day; Amnesty, and the NUG’s Press Release on Kason Full Moon Day
May 3 is World Press Freedom Day, designated by the United Nations as a commemoration to promote freedom of the press. Today, the UN-sponsored World Press Freedom Award Conference is held every year in the capital of a country around the world.
5 years ago, 2 Reuters journalists were awarded the Guillermo Cano Award, an award commemorating World Press Freedom Day in 2018. That year, 2 Reuters reporters, Ko Wa Lone and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo, were awarded, but they were sentenced to prison for violating state secrets in Myanmar.
For this year, 2023, this award was given jointly to 3 female journalists under arrest in Iran.
On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, about 50 Myanmar journalists were still being held in prison. Coincidentally, it was also the day that 5 journalists were freed with the amnesty given by the military council. 50 journalists have been arrested, and 45 have been convicted or are still in prison.
There have been more and more cases of dictatorships in countries around the world arresting and torturing journalists, strict handling of the news media by the authoritarian leaders who came to power in the elections and the far-right governments, actions by nationalist politicians and parties to incite the public and attack the news media, and criminal gangs threatening not to publish content about them. If you take a look at all the above incidents and the loss of journalists’ lives in the Ukraine-Russia war, which can be said to be the most severe in Europe since the Second World War, the world’s press freedom is pointing towards a downward trend. The RSF announced today that Myanmar’s press freedom index has reached 173rd place this year. Last year it was 176, and this year, 7 more countries are after Myanmar.
On the full moon of Kason, the military council suddenly announced that 2,153 political prisoners under Article 505-A of the Penal Code were released after signing a commitment letter for the rest of their sentences.
Last month, on the Myanmar Traditional New Year’s Day of the Thingyan, thousands of prisoners were announced to be exempted from punishment, and this announcement was made again less than a month later. In the New Year’s Day amnesty, there were only a small number of political prisoners, and most of them were those who were convicted of criminal offenses. Now, in the Kason Full Moon Day amnesty, it was announced that 2153 people who had been convicted under Section 505-A, which was amended into the Penal Code 2 weeks after the military coup, were released. It is the section that is most used in arrests related to politics, and after the military coup, there were at least 4-5 thousand to tens of thousands of people arrested and prosecuted under this section. The census groups announced that there were more than 17,000 arrests and prosecutions, and Section 505-A was seen as the most used.
I do not think that the private announcement of the release of those under Section 505-A was done because of the will of the military council. It is likely to be an action in response to international pressure and negotiation.
More than 2,000 prisoners under Section 505-A have been released after the news of international community’s recent visit to Myanmar and meeting with the leader of the military council, the former generals, and former military leaders. In the afternoon of May 3, the announcement that 38 people who were sentenced to death related with political events after the military coup, had been changed to life sentences.
It is concluded that the sudden change of punishment for more than 2,000 political prisoners and nearly 40 people sentenced to death is seen as positive, and it is a far cry from saying that the ASEAN 5-point consensus has been implemented.
Today, the National Unity Government also held an online press conference to mark the 2nd anniversary of the formation of the government and revealed the current situation and military and political results to the media.
It is said that more than 250 townships have established people’s administrative bodies, and more than 300 military columns have been formed under NUG across the country. It is also said that in terms of the number of soldiers who can attack, it has reached far more than that of the military council. No details have been released as to whether the armed forces have been fully equipped.
The fact that combat troops are superior is undisputed. But, there will still be difficulties and challenges in order to fully equip weapons and operate under a single command system. It is considered that it will be important to be able to meet the weapons and military expenses in order to fight strategic battles. The NUG reports that nearly 30,000 soldiers of the military council may have died during the fighting that took place over the past two years.
Overall, it can be concluded that at least 30,000 to 40,000 people have died due to armed conflict in more than 2 years after the military coup in Myanmar.