Myanmar military releases over 3,000 prisoners under amnesty

Myanmar's military has freed more than 3,000 prisoners under an amnesty to mark the traditional New Year holiday.

At least 28 foreign nationals were among the released prisoners who would be deported from the conflict-torn South Asian country.

Several political prisoners, including a member of the Kachin minority who is one of the country’s most prominent Christian church leaders, were among those freed on Wednesday.

The sentences for the remaining prisoners would be cut by one-sixth, barring those convicted for terrorism, corruption, and under drug laws.

Family and friends gathered outside the gates of Insein Prison in northern Yangon, waiting expectantly and scanning the windows of buses that brought the released detainees out of the vast complex.

Some held up signs with the names of the people they were seeking. “My family still doesn’t know about my release,” said Khin Thu Zar, who was released from prison. She, like many political detainees, had been held on a charge of incitement, a catch-all offense, widely used to arrest critics of the government and punishable by up to three years in prison.

The military has jailed thousands of opponents and pro-democracy activists since it wrested power from Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government in a February coup in 2021.

The amnesty comes a day after the junta announced Ms Suu Kyi had been moved from prison to house arrest due to an ongoing heatwave across the country.

The Nobel laureate is currently serving 27 years on what critics claim are trumped-up charges and was kept in an undisclosed location.

But the National Unity Government [NUG] – an alliance of anti-junta groups – fear that Ms Suu Kyi could be moved to a military base that may be targeted by the revolutionary forces.

The military has suffered a string of major defeats against pro-democracy resistance fighters and their allies in ethnic minority guerrilla forces.

Ms Suu Kyi’s health has reportedly deteriorated in prison. In September last year, Ms Suu Kyi’s son, Kim Aris, said she was suffering from symptoms of low blood pressure including dizziness and loss of appetite, but had been denied treatment at qualified facilities outside the prison system.

“I do fear for the reasons for her move,” Mr Aris told The Independent on Wednesday. “It would not appear to be for humanitarian reasons but rather to move her to a place to act as a shield against armed drones which are being used to try to remove this military tyranny by a brave opposition.

“These cynical manoeuvres by the Burmese [Myanmar] generals merely underline their lack of a sense of justice and freedom.”

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an independent group that monitors casualties and arrests, more than 20,351 people arrested on political charges since the 2021 army takeover are still in detention, most of whom have not received criminal convictions.