Junta releases celebrities from prison so they can ‘participate in nation building’ with their art  

The junta has freed five celebrities who were jailed for their opposition to last year’s military coup, saying they were pardoned so they can use their art to help with “nation building.”  

The movie star couple Pyay Ti Oo and Eaindra Kyaw Zin were freed from Insein Prison on Wednesday morning, as were model and actor Paing Takhon, director Wyne, and prolific film actor Lu Min.  

The celebrities “were pardoned… from their sentences in order to participate in nation building with their art,” the junta said in an announcement published in military-controlled media.

Paing Takhon, Pyay Ti Oo and Eaindra Kyaw Zin were arrested for joining anti-coup protests in the months following the military’s February 1 power grab and received three-year prison sentences for incitement in late December.

Paing Takhon was detained in April in an early morning raid by around 50 soldiers who arrived at his Yangon home in eight military trucks, his sister said in a Facebook post at the time. 

His lawyer, who requested anonymity, said on Wednesday that he had spoken to his client on the phone since his release. “Paing Takhon has arrived back at his home… All of them are in good health and have arrived home,” the lawyer told Myanmar Now.

The junta did not ask anything of Paing Takhon  in exchange for releasing him, he added: “He told me that he didn’t have to sign a pledge.” 

Lu Min was arrested three weeks after the coup for encouraging civil servants to join strikes aimed at toppling the regime. Wyne, the director, was caught last month after being hit with the same charge as Lu Min and evading arrest for a year. 

Eindra Kyaw Zin’s sister, Ei Kyaw Zin, wrote on Facebook that the actress and her husband were “now home and they are healthy.”   

Other celebrities remain in jail despite having incitement charges against them dropped. Among them are the actor Ye Taik and the beauty blogger Win Min Than, according to Ye Taik’s lawyer.  

Ye Taik still faces a charge for drug possession while Win Min Than has an outstanding charge for allegedly associating with illegal groups, the lawyer added. 

Other celebrities were overlooked entirely. Po Po, a vocalist who was arrested in April last year, and Ito, an indie singer and songwriter arrested in September for alleged possession of explosives have not had any charges dropped. 

Ito was released from prison on October 19 but was arrested again the next morning without explanation.

Several celebrities and artists are still behind bars for opposing the military, including director Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, singer Saw Pho Khwar, and the authors Htin Lin Oo and Maung Thar Cho.

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