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Burmese junta frees 8 of 11 arrested after contacting CNN


CNN is the first international media organization to be granted permission to enter the Southeast Asian nation since the military overthrew the civilian government in a February 1 coup and began to carry out a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, which left more than 550 dead. , according to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners, an advocacy group based in neighboring Thailand.

The CNN team reports with permission from the military and is escorted by the military, which has sent six trucks carrying soldiers to monitor the team on its first day in the field, and sends several “overseers.” With the crew wherever she goes. .

The CNN team was invited to visit the Ten Miles Bazaar in Insein County in Yangon on Friday. There they were approached by locals who wanted to be questioned, including two women waving the three-fingered salute, which has become a symbol of the protest movement against the military junta.

The pair were arrested by a group of security officials within three to five minutes of the CNN crew leaving, eyewitnesses said. The women work in a store in the market and were taken to Shwe Pyi Thar interrogation center, sources close to the women said.

CNN visited a second market in Mingaladon Township on Friday afternoon, where several local residents approached the team. A man and a woman were arrested after the interview. A relative of the two Mingaladon inmates approached the CNN crew and told them what had happened. She was then also detained once the team moved away from the area.

Military spokesman Gen. Zaw Min Tun confirmed in an interview with CNN on Sunday that security forces arrested three people from the first market and eight others from the second after interacting with the team on the ground. When asked what crime they had committed by CNN, he admitted that they had not broken the law.

“The security forces were afraid to provoke other people and launch the protest into the market, and that is why they were arrested,” Zaw Min Tun told CNN, adding that the army had expressed “regret. “for the arrests.

The military assured CNN it would be able to report independently and enjoy freedom of movement, but reporters’ request to stay in a Yangon hotel was denied and the team stayed instead. in a fortified military complex, given only intermittently and heavily controlled. public access.

Advisors sent by the military to monitor the CNN team took down the names and filmed anyone speaking to CNN, including those who were arrested shortly after interacting with the team in the markets.

The junta has cut all wireless internet services across the country until further notice, in what appears to be a concerted effort to control communications and messaging.

The country’s ousted civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was accused Thursday last week of violating the country’s official secrets law, the fifth and most serious charge against her since the coup. the army.
Reuters reported that his lawyers said the charges were trumped up. And in March, Suu Kyi’s attorney, Khin Maung Zaw, told CNN that the allegations against his client were “a complete fabrication”, in reference to his four previous charges, which included breaking the law. on import-export on walkie-talkies, posting information that could “raise fear or alarm” and corruption in the form of accepting illegal payments and gold to the government.

“I have been in politics in Myanmar for almost 40 years, and in all those years I have not witnessed such shameful allegations,” he said at the time. He added, “We are in a country where people have witnessed a lot of corruption in the past and a lot of bad behavior, but Aung San Suu Kyi is not in this sphere of corruption.”

Human Rights Watch said on Friday that the junta had “forcibly disappeared hundreds of people” – including politicians, election officials, journalists, activists and protesters since the coup.

According to the AAPP, at least 2,667 people – including journalists, protesters, activists, government officials, trade unionists, writers, students, civilians and even children – have been arrested, many of them during night raids.

This story has been updated to reflect that CNN is the first international media organization to be granted permission to enter Myanmar since the coup..

CNN’s Sandi Sidhu, Carly Walsh and Angela Dewan contributed to this report.

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