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3 Pastors Among 5,000 Freed from Myanmar Prisons, Many More Remain Behind Bars

(AP Photo/Thein Zaw)

Three Kachin pastors were among the 5,600 prisoners freed by the Myanmar military government last week.

Pastors Koshan Singsar, Z Kaw Htinah and M Hawng Di were arrested in March while in the Naungmoon township of Putao district and later charged with organizing prayers for peace, Barnabas Aid reports.

The pastors, who are from the Kachin Baptist Convention, were released on October 18 while awaiting trial for their role during the Feb. 1 protests against the coup. They received amnesty from military chief Min Aung Hlaing to mark the Lightning Festival "out of respect for the humanitarian cause."

This festival takes place on the full moon of Thadingyut in October marking the end of Buddhist Lent.

Many were concerned over the pastors' health, particularly 70-year-old Hawng Di who suffers from high blood pressure and stomach issues.

Despite the pastor's release, there are still thousands more who remain behind bars for their involvement in the anti-coup movement, including religious leaders.

Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which monitors the arrests of political prisoners, said the release was "a form of distraction for the foreign governments."

"If the junta wanted to make concessions, state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint and all political prisoners would be released unconditionally and the democratically elected leaders reinstalled," AAPP said last Monday.

Tom Andrews, a United Nations special investigator on the Myanmar human rights situation, pointed out that wrongful arrests continue to occur and this recent move by the military government does not represent a change of direction.

"The junta is releasing political prisoners in Myanmar not because of a change of heart, but because of pressure," Andrews said in a statement.

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