Family members of inmates wait outside Yangon's Insein Prison after the regime's amnesty announcement on Thursday. / The Irrawaddy
Myanmar’s civilian National Unity Government (NUG) urged the population and the international community to increase pressure to force the junta to unconditionally release all political prisoners.
Following the regime’s amnesty on Thursday that saw the release of some prominent political prisoners, acting president Duwa Lashi La said the releases were a result of pressure.
“But there are thousands of political prisoners, including President U Win Myint and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Many have been tortured and there are daily arrests,” he said.
“The regime’s amnesty could be seen as an act of compassion and mercy but it’s really an attempt to reduce the pressure,” he said.
The 2021 coup sparked widespread protests that met with deadly crackdowns, leading to thousands of arrests and fueling armed resistance across the country.
The international community, including the US and EU, have responded to the junta crackdowns with sanctions against the regime’s leadership and its business associates and called for the release of all political prisoners.
The regime released a National League for Democracy minister, party spokesman Dr. Myo Nyunt, former student leader Ko Mya Aye and an anti-regime activist Buddhist monk among almost 6,000 prisoners granted amnesty on Thursday.
Ko Mya Aye, one of the leaders of the ’88 Generation Students group, and Dr. Myo Nyunt were released from Yangon’s Insein Prison. Both were arrested during the February 1 coup.
The Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (AAPP), an advocacy group for prisoners’ rights, told The Irrawaddy it had recorded the release of 72 political prisoners by Friday afternoon.
Others being released include Australian economist Sean Turnell, a former adviser to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, former British envoy Vicky Bowman and her husband Htein Linn, who is a citizen of Myanmar, and Japanese filmmaker Toru Kubota.
Observers said the amnesty was an old trick used by successive juntas to reduce international pressure. The regime faces western sanctions and criticism from fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
However, Cambodian foreign minister Prak Sokhonn, ASEAN’s special envoy on Myanmar, stated on Thursday that the amnesty was an important gesture of “goodwill in pursuing a peaceful solution to the current crisis”. The Cambodian regime has strong ties with Myanmar’s junta.
He promised to visit Myanmar for a third time in the coming weeks “to assist Myanmar’s return to normalcy and a democratic path”.
During his previous visits, Prak Sokhonn was not allowed to meet Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.