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Myanmar junta frees 3,000 prisoners on Buddhist New Year

April 17, 2023

The country's military rulers traditionally grant amnesty to thousands of prisoners around the Buddhist new year but it is not clear whether those released this year will include political detainees.

A police officer stands guard during the Myanmar's New Year water festival
The country typically grants an amnesty to thousands of prisoners to mark its traditional Buddhist New Year holiday, but celebrations are muted in many cities this yearImage: AFP/Getty Images

To mark the Buddhist New Year, the Myanmar military junta released more than 3,000 prisoners on Monday, according to a statement by the military government.

The amnesty is a "celebration of Myanmar's New Year to bring joy for the people and address humanitarian concerns," Lieutenant General Aung Lin Dwe, a state secretary of the junta, said.

The junta released 3,113 prisoners, including 98 foreigners, according to the statement. However, it did not specify if jailed journalists or anti-junta protesters were part of the amnesty.

If the freed prisoners are found violating rules again then they will have to serve the remainder of their sentence with an additional penalty, the statement said.

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Myanmar's New Year amnesty for prisoners

Since the coup in February 2021, the junta has maintained a pattern of granting amnesty to thousands of prisoners to mark the occasion of the Buddhist New Year.

Shortly after the military takeover, the military-led government released around 23,000 prisoners. However, the number of released prisoners in 2022 and this year are significantly low.

More than 21,000 people have been arrested ever since the military ousted Aung San Suu Kyi's government, according to a local monitoring group.

Despite the coup, New Year celebrations had remained a joyous affair with people celebrating with playful water fights. This year, however, many streets are deserted in boycott following an airstrike on a village that reportedly killed more than 170 people.

mf/rt (AFP, Reuters)

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