Updated Nov 17, 2022, 7:43am EST
Southeast Asia

Japanese filmmaker, Australian economist among prisoners freed in Myanmar junta amnesty

J.D. Capelouto is a Breaking News reporter. You can reach him at jcapelouto@semafor.com. Sign up for Flagship, our daily newsletter that distills what’s happening in the world into a concise, insightful morning read.


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A Japanese filmmaker, an Australian economist, and a former British ambassador were freed from jail on Thursday as Myanmar’s ruling military announced it would release nearly 6,000 prisoners.

Thousands remain detained, according to the monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), after the junta arrested more than 16,000 people since seizing power in February 2021.

Myanmar's junta chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who ousted the elected government in a coup on February 1, 2021.
REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo
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Sean Turnell, an Australian adviser to ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Japanese documentary filmmaker Toru Kubota, and former British ambassador Vicky Bowman all took a flight out of the Southeast Asian country on Thursday, AFP reported.

The junta said it will release 5,774 prisoners in total to mark Myanmar National Day, according to the BBC. But thousands remain detained — including Suu Kyi, whose democratically elected government was overthrown in last year’s coup, which has ignited a massive countrywide resistance movement.

Kubota was arrested while he filmed an anti-junta rally in Yangon in July, while Turnell was detained shortly after the coup. Bowman served as Britain’s ambassador to Myanmar from 2002 to 2006, and was jailed with her Myanmar husband earlier this year on alleged immigration offenses widely believed to be politically motivated.

More than 2,500 civilians have been killed in Myanmar since the military’s crackdown on dissent after its coup, according to AAPP.