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Only 402 of Myanmar’s Nearly 13,000 Political Prisoners Freed in Junta Amnesty


Family members greet released prisoners outside Insein Prison in Yangon on Nov. 17. / The Irrawaddy

Of the nearly 6,000 prisoners released under the regime’s amnesty last week only 402 were political prisoners, most of whom had nearly completed serving their sentences, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

The junta released 5,774 prisoners to mark National Day on Nov. 17, but the political prisoners released from 19 prisons throughout the country accounted for fewer than 7 percent of them as of Monday, the rights group said.

“The majority of the 402 political prisoners released were set to complete their sentences soon— like in the next three months,” an official from the AAPP told The Irrawaddy.

Many of them were arrested by the regime last year following its crackdowns on nationwide peaceful anti-regime protests sparked by the coup in February 2021.

Among the political prisoners freed by the regime were a National League for Democracy minister; party spokesman Dr. Myo Nyunt; former student leader Ko Mya Aye; and an anti-regime activist Buddhist monk.

Also released were 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.

According to the AAPP, 12,923 people arrested since the coup for political reasons are still detained.

Acting President Duwa Lashi La of Myanmar’s civilian National Unity Government (NUG) urged Myanmar people and the international community to increase pressure on the junta to force it to unconditionally release all political prisoners.

“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. 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.

In a press release on Nov. 21, the AAPP said the junta only announced the names of a handful of released political prisoners, exposing the utter lack of transparency regarding the released persons, and leading to delays in documenting the list of released political prisoners and confirming their names.