Myanmar junta releases former top election commission officials

Myanmar's junta said Wednesday it has released two top election commission officials jailed for fraud during the 2020 vote won by Aung San Suu Kyi's party.

Election commission chairman Hla Thein and spokesman Myint Naing were detained shortly after the military took power last year, alleging massive fraud in polls that international observers said were largely free and fair.

They were later jailed for three years each in closed-door trials for "failing to give explanations to the people over vote frauds".

The pair -- both in their 70s -- had their sentences quashed last month due to their age and health and the "benevolence of the state", the junta said in a statement.

A junta spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

The junta has cancelled the results of the 2020 elections, in which Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy trounced its military-backed rival.

It has said it will hold fresh elections next year, plans that have been slammed by the United States but praised by close ally and arms supplier Russia.

All political parties must ask for permission if they wish to meet foreign organisations or individuals, the junta-stacked election commission said in August.

Those failing to comply would have their registration cancelled, it added.

The junta's newly-appointed head of the body previously oversaw elections in 2010 that were boycotted by the NLD and won resoundingly by a military-backed party.

The NLD has been decimated by the coup, with many senior members in hiding or in jail, including Suu Kyi who has been sentenced to 26 years by a closed junta court.

On Tuesday -- the anniversary of the 2020 election -- the NLD called for Suu Kyi's release and for the junta to allow its senior leaders to meet with her.

The Nobel Peace laureate has been detained since the coup and in June was moved from house arrest in the military-built capital Naypyidaw to solitary confinement.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the coup.

More than 2,400 civilians have been killed in a military crackdown on dissent, according to a local monitoring group.

The junta blames anti-coup fighters for the death of more than 4,000 civilians.

bur-hla/qan