By GEOFFREY GODDARD & KO KO AUNG | FRONTIER
More than 150 Chinese nationals sentenced to life jail terms for illegal logging on July 22 were among nearly 7,000 prisoners released under a presidential amnesty on July 30, reports said.
The Chinese were among 210 foreigners released to maintain “goodwill in mutual relations between countries”, the Ministry of Information said in a two-paragraph statement in Myanmar announcing the amnesty.
It did not identify the nationality of the foreigners, but reports quoted sources as saying they included the loggers, whose jailing had infuriated Beijing.
The release of the 155 loggers, 153 of whom had been sentenced to life terms of 20 years, came a day after Beijing released 205 Myanmar arrested for working illegally in China, its state-run Xinhua newsagency reported.
Xinhua said the release of the workers, who had been arrested in Shandong and Jiangsu provinces, had followed an appeal from the Myanmar government.
In its statement on the amnesty, the Information Ministry said the 6,756 Myanmar prisoners were released “with a view to turning them into citizens who would understand the benevolence and goodwill of the State”.
Among those released under the amnesty, the latest in a series since the change of government in 2011, were three journalists and two owners from Bi Moon Thae Nay weekly journal who were each sentenced to two years in prison in October last year for causing public alarm.
The jail terms arose from a report in the journal quoting a false statement by the Myanmar Democratic Current Force group that the Myanmar people had appointed an interim government that included opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
The amnesty also saw the release of the last group of officers jailed after the purge of Military Intelligence in late 2004.
As well as the six officers, former Bureau of Special Investigations director-general U Tun Hla Aung, former National Intelligence Bureau Police Colonel Zaw Thun Aung, and U Tin Htut Pau Khan Than, one of the few civilian victims of the purge and the son-in-law of former MI supremo and prime minister, Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt, were also released, informed sources told Frontier.
They said the amnestied MI officers are former Brigadier-General Than Tun, former colonels Tin Hla, Aung Ngwe, Tin Oo and Myint Aung Kyaw, and former Major Nay Soe.