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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Via AP news wire

Myanmar's military government pardons 10,000 prisoners to mark Independence Day

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Myanmar’s military government on Thursday pardoned nearly 10,000 prisoners to mark the 76th anniversary of gaining independence from Britain, but it wasn’t immediately clear if any of those released included the thousands of political detainees jailed for opposing army rule.

The head of Myanmar ’s military council, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, pardoned 9,652 prisoners to mark the holiday, state-run MRTV television reported.

Min Aung Hlaing also granted amnesty to 114 jailed foreigners who will be deported, MRTV said in a separate report.

The prisoner releases were expected to begin Thursday and take several days to be completed. At Insein Prison in Yangon — notorious for decades for housing political detainees — relatives of prisoners gathered at the gates from early morning.

The identities of those granted pardons were not immediately available. There was no sign that among the prisoners being released would be Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been held virtually incommunicado by the military since it seized power from her elected government in February 2021.

The 78-year-old Suu Kyi is serving 27 years’ imprisonment after being convicted of a series of politically tinged prosecutions brought by the military. The charges on which she was convicted include illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, election fraud, corruption, violating coronavirus restrictions, breaching the official secrets act and sedition.

Her supporters and independent analysts say the cases against her are an attempt to discredit her and legitimize the military’s seizure of power while keeping her from taking part in the military’s promised election, for which no date has yet been set.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a rights monitoring organization, 25,730 people have been arrested on political charges since the army takeover.

Of those arrested, 19,930 people were still in detention as of Wednesday, AAPP reported. At least 4,277 civilians, including pro-democracy activists, have been killed by security forces in the same period, the group says.

Most of those detained are being held on incitement charges for allegedly causing fear, spreading false news or agitating against government employees.

Mass prisoner releases are common on major holidays in the Southeast Asian nation.

Myanmar became a British colony in the late 19th century and regained its independence on Jan. 4, 1948.

In the capital, Naypyitaw, Myanmar’s military government celebrated the anniversary with a flag-raising ceremony and a small military parade at City Hall.

Myanmar has been under military rule since the army’s takeover, which was met with massive resistance that has since turned into what some U.N. experts have characterized as civil war.

Despite huge advantages in trained manpower and weaponry, the military government has been unable to quash the resistance movement. After an alliance of ethnic minority armed groups launched a coordinated offensive against the military last October in Shan state in the north and Rakhine in the west, it is now facing its greatest battlefield challenge since the conflict began.

Min Aung Hlaing did not touch on the country’s extended political crisis in his Independence Day message, which was published in the state-run press. Vice-Senior Gen. Soe Win, the vice-chairman of the ruling military council, delivered Min Aung Hlaing’s speech at a flag-saluting ceremony, which was broadcast live on state television.

He appealed to ethnic minority groups, many of which are engaged in armed struggle against military rule, to strengthen national unity, and promised that the military government would hold an election and hand over state responsibilities to the elected government. However, he did not give a timeframe for the election.

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