Myanmar junta to pardon 23,000 prisoners in Buddhist New Year amnesty
Bangkok, Apr 17 (EFE).- Myanmar’s military authorities on Saturday said they granted pardons to 23,000 prisoners to mark the Buddhist New Year as protests against the junta, which came to power in a coup in February, continued, local media reported.
It is not yet known whether pro-democracy activists and protesters will be among those granted early release.
At least 800 prisoners are to be free from the Insein Prison in Yangon, the largest city in the country, and another 2,800 from five prisons in Mandalay, local media outlet Eleven Myanmar reported.
Among the pardons were six members of the satirical theater group Peacock Generation, who were arrested in 2019 for criticizing the military, as well as the co-founder of the Myanmar Times, Ross Dunkley, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2018 for drug possession.
Myanmar authorities traditionally grant amnesties to mark the Buddhist New Year. This year, however, a large portion of the civilian population has decided to boycott the New Year celebrations to protest the ongoing crackdown by the junta, led by Min Aung Hlaing.
The most prominent prisoner of the coupist regime, the leader of the deposed civilian government, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been held in custody since the coup on 1 February.
Pro-democracy protesters continue to take to the streets despite the bloody repression they face from security forces, who have killed more than 728 civilians, including at least 40 children, since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
The junta’s forces have arrested over 3,100 people since the coup.
The AAPP said security forces fatally shot at least two protesters on Friday but warned the real toll was likely much higher. Soldiers violently dispersed demonstrations in the cities of Mandalay and Sagaing.
The military junta has clamped down on the media and restricted access to the internet in Myanmar.
Anti-junta politicians on Friday formed a parallel civilian government of national unity. It comprises 26 members, including 13 representatives of ethnic minorities and eight women.
The new government continues to be symbolically presided over by U Win Myint and Suu Kyi remains state adviser, but given that both are under arrest since February, the leadership falls on Mahn Win Khaing Than, now appointed prime minister.
The European Union, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada have all condemned the violence from Myanmar’s security forces although the international community has so far been unable to implement common measures such as an arms embargo.
Russia and China are regarded as the principal defenders of the junta, although both have criticized the death of civilians and called for the release of political prisoners.
The army has justified the coup on grounds of alleged electoral fraud in the November elections last year – held in the presence of international observers -, in which Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide like in 2015.
The Thai government on Saturday said the Myanmar junta had confirmed its participation in the next ASEAN meeting, which is to be held on 24 April in Jakarta.
The meeting will serve to broach the unrest in Myanmar.EFE