Myanmar began releasing tens of thousands of inmates Friday after an amnesty was announced, the first such release under the new military junta.
The National Administrative Council (NAC), chaired by the coup leader and country’s military chief Sen. Gen Min Aung Hlaing, announced that the amnesty of 23,314 prisoners was extended on humanitarian grounds as a gesture to celebrate the country’s 71st Union Day.
Radio Free Asia’s Burmese Service reported that Aye Maung, an ethnic Rakhine politician who was handed a 20-year sentence for high treason in 2019, were among those released from Yangon’s notorious Insein prison.
He was arrested in early 2018 and charged for making speeches at a public event in which they accused the government led by Aung San Suu Kyi of treating the Rakhine people like “slaves”.
The junta said those released include 55 foreigners. It was unclear, however, how many political prisoners would be released under the amnesty.
It added that life imprisonment will be reduced to 40-year jail terms, jail terms above 40 years will be reduced to 40 years and 40-year jail terms and shorter sentences will be cut by a quarter.
It was the first amnesty by the military junta that overthrew the civilian government led by Suu Kyi in a bloodless coup on Feb.1.
The ruling military council, however, arrested hundreds of government officials, dissidents and public servants who went on a nonviolent anti-coup strike since the takeover.
Hundreds of residents of Yangon’s North Okkalapa township gathered near the police station late Thursday, demanding the release of a poet actively involved in the anti-coup protest who was dragged away by police.
Large-scale protests continued across the country on Friday for the seventh consecutive day.
Tensions were reported in southeastern Mon state’s capital Mawlamyine after police fired warning shots and dragged some people who were leading the protests on Friday morning.
Thousands of protesters have been in a standoff with police who blocked them near the city’s main market, according to local media reports.