In honour of the beginning of the Buddhist New Year, the ruling military junta of Myanmar announced on Monday that it would be releasing more than 3,000 inmates. However, it did not specify whether or not this would apply to those who had been incarcerated as a result of the violent crackdown on opposition that the government had carried out.
Since their coup that took place more over two years ago, which shook the country and provoked multiple skirmishes with anti-coup rebels, the military has arrested thousands upon thousands of individuals.
According to a statement released by the junta’s communications team, the chairman of the junta, Min Aung Hlaing, “pardoned 3,015 prisoners… to mark Myanmar New Year, for the peaceful mind of the people, and on humanitarian grounds.”
According to the statement, those who commit further crimes will be obliged to complete the remaining portion of their sentence in addition to the extra punishment.
It was not made clear if anti-junta protestors who were detained in jail or journalists who were detained for reporting the coup would be freed. Soon after the coup, the military junta freed some 23,000 inmates, which prompted several rights groups to express their fear that the decision would allow military opponents more licence to operate and wreak havoc on local populations.
During the annual Buddhist New Year festival, which in past years has been characterised by jubilant festivities and water battles taking place over the whole of the city, the government of the country regularly offers amnesty to thousands upon thousands of convicts.
This year, however, the streets of several large towns remained quiet as a form of protest in response to a military airstrike that was carried out on a hamlet that was located in a hotspot for resistance. The media and the villagers said that the attack killed more than 170 people.
Since the military took power when Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration was overthrown in February 2021, more than 21,000 individuals have been arrested, according to a local monitoring agency.
Since the first hours of the coup, Aung San Suu Kyi has been held captive. The 77-year-old Nobel laureate was given a sentence of 33 years in jail by the junta in December. This came after the junta had completed a series of secret tribunals, which rights groups have criticised as being fraudulent. There have been at least 170 journalists taken into custody after the coup, according to reports from the United Nations.