The new military government in Myanmar has released more than 23,000 prisoners on Friday after angry protests against the military coup persists for seven days.
In a move to mark the Union Day, a day set aside as an holiday to celebrate the unification of the country, military commander, Min Aung Hlaing and the State Administrative Council has directed tens of thousands political prisoners to be released.
Though ousted civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi and other politicians and activists remain in detention, Hlaing released Rakhine politician Dr. Aye Maung and writer Wai Hin Aung, who had both been sentenced to long prison terms in 2018 for high treason.
While it is a tradition for Myanmar to release prisoners on national holidays, this is the first such amnesty from the new junta, which seized power in a coup on February 1, after overthrowing Suu Kyi and detaining important government officials.
Although, the offences of the prisoners were not clarified, the military pinned the coup on the alleged abnormalities that occurred in the last election held in November 2020 which resulted in large victories for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.
Some freed members of the Union election Commission are being questioned in the military’s investigation of purported voter fraud.
“The senior officers were told to write down that fraud happened. They were asked about voter lists as well. All election commission officials are in big trouble. The military is the one who made the fraud accusations, seized power, and is now doing investigations to confirm their claims, one commission official said.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners started that the release was to clear the prison to accommodate more political prisoners.
In his address, Min Aung Hlaing said the prisoner amnesty was part of an effort to build a “democratic country with disciplines.”
His body language does not suggest that the former democratic leader and other officials that have been imprisoned would enjoy the amnesty. Also, the protesters have not shield their swords even as he granted amnesty to some prisoners.
Min Aung Hlaing, had on Thursday warned protesters to resume back to their duties post.
“Those who are away from their duties are requested to return to their duties immediately for the interests of the country and people without focusing on the emotion,” he said.