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Pardon frees over 2,100 Myanmar political prisoners

BANGKOK (AP) – Myanmar’s ruling military council yesterday said it was releasing over 2,100 political prisoners as a humanitarian gesture. Thousands more remain imprisoned on charges generally involving nonviolent protests or criticism of military rule, which began when the army seized power in February 2021 from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

State-run MRTV television reported that the head of Myanmar’s military council Senior General Min Aung Hlaing (AP, pic below) pardoned 2,153 prisoners.

The releases began yesterday, but may take a few days to be completed. The identities of those released were not immediately available, but would not include Suu Kyi, who is serving a prison term of 33 years on more than a dozen charges her supporters say were trumped up by the military.

According to an official announcement on state media, all of the prisoners granted pardon yesterday had been convicted under a section of Myanmar’s penal code that makes it a crime to spread comments that create public unrest or fear, or spread false news, and carries a penalty of up to three years in prison.

The terms of the pardon warn that if the freed detainees violate the law again, they will have to serve the remainder of their original sentences in addition to whatever term they are given for their new offence.

The last release of so many political prisoners at one time occurred in July 2021, when 2,296 prisoners were freed.

In November last year, several high profile political prisoners, including an Australian academic, a Japanese filmmaker, an ex-British diplomat and an American, were released as part of a broad prisoner amnesty that also freed many local citizens held for protesting the army takeover.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners had saidon Tuesday that 17,897 people taken into custody since the 2021 army takeover remained in detention. The group keeps detailed tallies of arrests and casualties linked to the repression of the military

Prisoner releases appear to be efforts by the hard-line military government to soften its image as a major human rights abuser.

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