Myanmar frees US citizen as part of mass prisoner release


Myanmar authorities announced on Thursday that they are releasing an American citizen along with three other international detainees as part of a mass prisoner amnesty program. 

U.S. citizen Kyaw Htay Oo — along with Australian economist Sean Turnell, Japanese filmmaker Toru Kubota and former British Ambassador to Myanmar Vicky Bowman — were among the 5,774 prisoners being released by the military junta. 

Kyaw Htay Oo, a Myanmar native who returned back to his home country in 2017, was arrested and jailed last year on terrorism charges. 

Among the thousands of prisoners being released are 11 Myanmar celebrities and Kyaw Tint Swe, a former state minister and a close aide to former state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, who is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence for charges brought by the junta, according to Reuters

Myanmar state media reported that the four foreigners were given amnesty due to their “relationship with other countries and also for humanitarian purposes” and were asked to leave the country upon release, Reuters reported. 

Turnell and Bowman flew out of the county after being released and were expected to land in Thailand. 

Myanmar’s military staged a coup in February 2021 and has since carried out mass detention of critics, killed hundreds of protesters and spurred the mass displacement of citizens. Suu Kyi, who was ousted in the coup, has been sentenced to 26 years in prison on spurious charges.

The Department of Homeland Security announced in September that it had extended its Temporary Protected Status for Myanmar residents who fled to the U.S. due to the military coup for a three-year period. 

In a statement Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken applauded the news of Kyaw Htay Oo’s release from Myanmar, saying that the administration would “continue to call for the release of the many thousands of political prisoners who remain” in the country. 

“The safety and security of Americans worldwide is one of my highest priorities as Secretary of State, and we will never stop working to secure the release of U.S. nationals held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad,” Blinken said in his statement. 

The Associated Press contributed with this report



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