Yangon, Myanmar, Apr 17 (efe-epa).- Myanmar announced Friday the release of more than 24,800 prisoners, a quarter of its jailed population, on the occasion of the Buddhist New Year and amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Authorities pardon thousands of prisoners every year, but this New Year forgave more than double than on previous occasions in a country with a total prison population of about 100,000 people.
The Office of the President indicated in a statement, in which it does not mention COVID-19 among the reasons for the amnesty, that the measure also includes commuting the death penalty to life imprisonment for several inmates and prison reductions.
Despite the fact that the authorities have banned meetings of more than five people due to the novel coronavirus, relatives of the inmates gathered outside the Insein prison in Yangon, the largest city in the country, to await their releases.
The United Nations has called for countries to release vulnerable and sick non-dangerous prisoners to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in prisons, which in countries of the region such as Myanmar, the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand are overcrowded.
Earlier this month, Indonesia released some 30,000 inmates, and other countries such as Iran, Germany, and Canada have taken similar steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections.
The international organization Human Rights Watch requested amnesties for prisoners in the Philippines – where today it was announced that the coronavirus had infected at least nine prisoners and nine guards in a prison in Quezon – and in Thailand, where inmates triple prison capacity.
In Southeast Asia there are different levels of movement and social distance restrictions in countries such as Myanmar, with 84 confirmed cases and four deaths, Indonesia (5,516 patients and 496 deaths), Malaysia (5,182 cases and 84 deaths) and Thailand (2,700 infections and 47 deceased). EFE-EPA