Myanmar pardons prisoners, unclear if activists among them

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) : Myanmar’s junta on Saturday announced it pardoned and released more than 23,000 prisoners to mark the new year holiday, but it wasn’t immediately clear if they included pro-democracy activists who were detained in the wake of the February coup.

The release was announced on state broadcaster MRTV, which said that the military leader Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing pardoned the 23,047 prisoners, including 137 foreigners who will be deported from Myanmar. He also reduced sentences for others. 

Early prisoner releases are customary during major holidays, but this is the second time the ruling junta has done so since it overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, triggering daily protests, arrests and deaths by security forces.

A woman lights a candle while others flash the three-fingered sign of resistance during a candlelight vigil to remember those who died in the military junta’s violent response to anti-coup demonstrations in Yangon, Myanmar Friday, April 16, 2021. Opponents of Myanmar’s ruling junta went on the political offensive Friday, declaring they have formed an interim national unity government with members of Aung San Suu Kyi’s ousted cabinet and major ethnic minority groups. (AP Photo)
Women light candles during a candlelight vigil to remember those who died during the military junta’s violent response to anti-coup demonstrations in Yangon, Myanmar Friday, April 16, 2021. Opponents of Myanmar’s ruling junta went on the political offensive Friday, declaring they have formed an interim national unity government with members of Aung San Suu Kyi’s ousted cabinet and major ethnic minority groups. (AP Photo)

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which monitors casualties and arrests, government forces have killed at least 726 protesters and bystanders since the takeover. The group says 2,728 people, including Suu Kyi, are in detention.

Police security forces stand by inside a police vehicle and on the sidewalk of Hledan Road in Kamayut township in Yangon, Myanmar Friday, April 16, 2021. Opponents of Myanmar’s ruling junta went on the political offensive Friday, declaring they have formed an interim National Unity Government comprising elements of the ousted government of Aung San Suu Kyi as well as prominent members of major ethnic minority groups.(AP Photo)
Young Buddhist monks walk on a road leading to the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar Friday, April 16, 2021. Opponents of Myanmar’s ruling junta went on the political offensive Friday, declaring they have formed an interim National Unity Government comprising elements of the ousted government of Aung San Suu Kyi as well as prominent members of major ethnic minority groups. (AP Photo

Following the release of more than 23,000 convicts to mark Union Day on Feb. 12, there were reports on social media that some were recruited by the authorities to carry out violence at night in residential areas to spread panic, especially by setting fires. Some areas responded by setting up their own neighborhood watch groups.

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