1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Myanmar: Junta releases prisoners to mark Independence Day

January 5, 2023

The military junta is observing the 75th anniversary of independence with a gesture of amnesty, but critics have called it a stunt. Thousands still remain locked up as authorities continue to crack down on dissenters.

Prisoners released from Insein Prison are welcomed by their colleagues and family members, in Yangon, Myanmar
The junta has carried out several amnesties but the number of people still in prison remains highImage: picture alliance/AP

The military junta ruling Myanmar has released over 7,000 prisoners, including several high-level political detainees, as part of an amnesty coinciding with the country's 75th anniversary of independence from British rule, local media reported on Thursday.

State-run broadcaster MRTV announced the planned release of 7,012 prisoners on Wednesday, without specifying who would be freed.

Author and member of ousted leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, Htin Lin Oo, confirmed his release on Thursday.

"Now I have arrived home from prison, but I am not free yet. It is not real freedom if I still need to fear even at home," he said in a phone call with Reuters news agency,  which also reported on the release of former government minister Thura Aung Ko.

'Illegal regime'

The army took control of Myanmar in a coup in February 2021, in which it ousted pro-democracy civilian leaders Suu Kyi and President Win Myint — neither of whom appeared to be included in the amnesty.

Thousands of people were arrested in protests against the junta and around 2,700 have been killed, according to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

"An illegal regime cannot announce an amnesty — since its coup, the junta has announced several so-called amnesties to distract international attention," AAPP secretary U Tate Naing said in response to the junta's announcement.

Resisting the junta: Myanmar's young rebels

The group also said that it had confirmed the identities of 43 out of an estimated 200 political prisoners who had been slated for release.

But it also reported that 22 more political prisoners were arrested on Wednesday.

Military maintains its control

The amnesty comes just days after Suu Kyi was sentenced to a further seven years in prison after being convicted on five counts of corruption. The charges have been widely seen as a sham to keep the popular leader — currently locked up in solitary confinement in the capital, Naypyidaw — out of the public eye.

Last month, the UN Security Council demanded an end to the violence in Myanmar, its first resolution pertaining to the country in 74 years.

Myanmar, previously known as Burma, gained its independence from the British Empire on January 4, 1948.

The country has been embroiled in ethnic conflict ever since and most of its history has been dominated by military dictatorships — from 1962 to 2011 and from 2021 on.

ab/wmr (Reuters, EFE)