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Myanmar will release 5,600 anti-regime prisoners

Myanmar's military junta, which seized power from an elected government in February, says it will free more than 5,600 people jailed for anti-regime activity.

The announcement appears to be a gesture aimed at placating Myanmar's neighbors after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, over the weekend snubbed coup leader Min Aung Hlaing by excluding the general from its Oct. 26-28 summit. Instead, ASEAN said it would invite an as-yet unnamed nonpolitical representative from Myanmar to attend the summit.

In announcing the release, the junta said in a statement quoted by The Irrawaddy, a news site run by exiles living in neighboring Thailand, that if those being freed "commit crimes again" they will be required to serve their remaining sentences in addition to any new sentence.

In a televised speech on Monday, Min Aung Hlaing said Myanmar was committed to peace and democracy. The regime has jailed thousands who have protested the coup against Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest since her government was deposed in February.

ASEAN proposed a five-point plan to restore democracy in Myanmar, but the group has accused Myanmar of not taking it seriously. Min Aung Hlaing said the junta is following its own five-point plan.

The Irrawaddy said the regional bloc had barred the general "for failing to fulfill promises made to ASEAN of engaging in dialogue with the junta's opponents and de-escalating the violence in Myanmar."

Sounding a note of irritation, he blamed the outlawed National Unity Government and armed ethnic groups for trying to sabotage peace, but made no direct mention of ASEAN's decision.

"More violence happened due to provocations of terrorist groups," he said, appearing in civilian attire rather than his military uniform, according to Reuters. "No one cares about their violence, and is only demanding we solve the issue. ASEAN should work on that."

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.