| 9 December 2023, Saturday |

Myanmar junta to free 3,000 prisoners in New Year amnesty

Marking the Buddhist New Year, Myanmar’s junta said on Monday it would release more than 3,000 prisoners, without specifying whether those jailed in its bloody crackdown on dissent would be freed.
The military has arrested thousands since its coup more than two years ago that plunged the country into turmoil and sparked widespread clashes with anti-coup fighters.
Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing “pardoned 3,015 prisoners… to mark Myanmar New Year, for the peaceful mind of the people and on humanitarian grounds,” the junta’s information team said in a statement.
Those who re-offend would have to serve the remainder of their sentence with an additional penalty, the statement said.
It did not say whether anti-junta protesters or journalists jailed covering the coup will be among those freed.
Shortly after its coup, the junta released around 23,000 prisoners, with some rights groups at the time fearing the move was to free up space for opponents of the military as well as to cause chaos in communities.
The country typically grants an amnesty to thousands of prisoners to mark its traditional Buddhist New Year holiday – which in previous years have been joyous affairs with city-wide water fights.
But this year streets in many major cities were silent in boycott after a military airstrike on a village in a resistance hotspot that media and locals said killed more than 170 people.
More than 21,000 people have been arrested since the military ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s government in February 2021, according to a local monitoring group.
Suu Kyi has been detained since the early hours of the coup.
In December, the junta wrapped up a series of closed-court trials of the 77-year-old Nobel laureate, jailing her for a total of 33 years in a process rights groups have condemned as a sham.
At least 170 journalists have been arrested since the putsch, according to the United Nations.

  • Arab News