Ever since elected leader Aun Sang Suu Kyi was overthrown by the Myanmar military junta in February, protests have swarmed streets and state-sanctioned violence has been amplified in cities.
But on Wednesday, Myanmar freed over 2,000 of its detainees held since the beginning of the coup. Of those released were journalists and others who the military had wrongly held accused of participating in protests.
What do we know so far about Myanmar?
At Beep, we have covered Myanmar significantly over the years.
Here we explained what a military coup is and how it’s impacted the country. In a nutshell, the government was overthrown and the military is suppressing those who want democracy to remain through a number of abusive methods.
We also know that the military, without any forceful opposition from Myanmar’s former Nobel Peace Prize-winning leader, were committing genocide against an ethnic minority in the country, the Rohingya Muslims. You can read about that here.
Why would the military do this?
It seems initially odd why the military would release so many prisoners as its grip on the country tightens. The nation’s multibillion-dollar jade trade has been used to finance the coup by leader General Min Aung Hlaing.
Some believe that the release of the detainees is a distraction technique to draw attention away from recent reports of corruption of the highest order in the country – as if the military overthrowing an elected government wasn’t enough.
Money talks in the Myanmar coup
According to Global Witness, “endemic corruption” within Myanmar’s jade trade is “extended to the top” of the military’s chain of command. Their report names General Hlaing as one of the individuals directly profiting from the trade and being involved in jade-related bribery.
The jade trade in Myanmar is extremely lucrative and simultaneously dangerous. Many unprotected individuals head to the mountains to mine for jade, despite horrendous, fatal landslides occurring.
It is now allegedly being used to fund the military’s control over the country, including their human rights abuses of protesters and ethnic minority groups, including the Rohingya Muslims.
The Rohingya have been victims of genocide in Myanmar since 2016, with over one million fleeing their homes to nearby Bangladesh, becoming stateless refugees in the process.
Are there other prisoners left?
It is believed by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) that Myanmar’s military is currently holding over 5,000 people in jail and have killed 885. Myanmar’s leadership contests these figures, however.
As the nation strikes for democratic freedom, many industries have essentially come to a standstill. Protests block streets and the military is still cracking down hard on those in opposition to their power.
Where does this leave Myanmar now?
On top of protests, Covid-19 is now thought to be rampant in the country. Testing is limited, but cases have risen sharply according to the military’s Health Ministry. Experts believe that there are far more cases going unreported, contributing to what is expected to be a huge human cost for the neglect of the pandemic.
Before the military took control, Myanmar’s government had established a programme to stop the spread of Covid-19 and leader Aung San Suu Kyi had even taken her first dose of the vaccine.
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3.5 million vaccine doses from India had been acquired by Ms Suu Kyi in February, but once the military took control, vaccinations were essentially soaked up by those closest to the heart of power.
Plans to prioritise the elderly were ignored, with some doses going to the military themselves, according to one doctor at a military hospital.
In truth, Myanmar is still no better off than it was before 2,000 prisoners were released. While the harsh realities of a military coup persist, so will the suffering of this country, once praised for its establishment of a successful democracy.