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HUNDREDS of people imprisoned for demonstrating against the coup in Myanmar were released yesterday as protesters took part in a silent strike.
State-run TV said that a total of 628 were freed. Thein Zaw, a journalist for Associated Press who was arrested last month while covering an anti-coup protest, was also released.
Mr Zaw said that the judge in his case announced during a hearing that all charges against him were dropped because he was doing his job at the time of his arrest.
Myanmar’s security forces have cracked down violently on protests against the coup, which took place in February.
The independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said that at least 275 people have been killed in connection with the crackdown.
Thousands have also been arrested, and more than 2,000 remain in custody or have charges against them outstanding.
The prisoners released appear to be the hundreds of students detained in early March. One lawyer, speaking on condition of anonymity because she fears drawing attention from the authorities, said that all those released were arrested on March 3.
She said that only 55 people detained in connection with the protests remained in the prison, and it is likely they will all face charges under a law that carries a penalty of up to three years in prison.
Demonstrators tried a new tactic yesterday that they dubbed a silence strike, calling on people to stay home and businesses to close for the day.
Online messages explained that the strike’s purpose was to honour the movement’s fallen heroes, to allow protesters to recharge and to contradict the junta’s claims that “everything is back to normal.”
Some protesters did go out to release red balloons with leaflets attached.
The new tactic was employed after an extended onslaught of violence from security forces.
Local media reported that a 7-year-old girl in Mandalay, the country’s second-biggest city, was among the latest victims on Tuesday.
Khin Myo Chit was shot in the abdomen by a soldier while she sat in her father’s lap inside her home in Aung Pin Le ward, according to her sister Aye Chan San.
She said that a soldier shot at her father when he denied that any people were hiding in their home, and hit the girl.
She also alleged that the soldiers then beat her 19-year-old brother with their rifle butts and took him away.
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