Crime & Justice

Myanmar military junta gives amnesty to 2,153 jailed dissidents

Bangkok, May 3 (EFE).- The Myanmar military junta announced Wednesday an amnesty for thousands of dissidents imprisoned in prisons countrywide, amid an escalation of violence by the army against militias opposed to its command after the February 2021 coup.

In a statement released Wednesday, the military regime said the amnesty is in honor of Kason’s Full Moon Day, a Buddhist anniversary, and that the 2,153 prisoners released had been sentenced under section 505-A of the Penal Code. This is directed against political activists, journalists and those who demonstrated against the military regime after the coup.

The amnesty coincides with the visit to Myanmar by Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, who called for “a process of political transition” during a meeting Tuesday in Naypyidaw with the head of the junta Gen. Min Aung Hlaing. This is the highest level visit between the countries since the coup. It is unknown if there are high-profile prisoners among those amnestied.

Min Aung Hlaing led a coup on Feb. 1, 2021 that overthrew the elected government of State Counsellor Aung San Su Kyi, who has since been detained and sentenced to 33 years in prison for various crimes.

The coup unleashed a civil protest movement and the formation of civilian militias opposed to the military, such as the People’s Defense Force. These have gained ground against the generals, exacerbating the armed conflict the country has suffered for decades between the army and ethnic guerrillas.

The force is the armed wing of the National Unity Government, which claims to be the legitimate authority of Myanmar and is partly made up of former MPs from the National League for Democracy, Suu Kyi’s formation.

The armed forces have responded to the opposition with violence, leaving at least 3,452 people dead since the coup and detaining more than 20,000 dissidents, of whom 17,897 remain in custody. This includes Suu Kyi, according to the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners, a Myanmar NGO.

The last amnesty took place on Apr. 17, on the occasion of the Buddhist New Year, when the military junta announced the pardon of more than 3,000 prisoners, including about 100 foreigners and some political prisoners, including former Finance Minister Kyaw Win.


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