Myanmar pardons 8,500 prisoners in Thingyan amnesty

By AFP

YANGON — Myanmar’s president on Tuesday announced pardons for more than 8,500 prisoners, including three dozen jailed in political cases, as part of an annual amnesty marking the traditional new year.  

President U Win Myint, who took office last month after his predecessor U Htin Kyaw resigned, said the pardons would be granted on humanitarian grounds.

The amnesty was extended mostly to drug offenders, as well as more than 50 foreigners and 36 political prisoners, according to a breakdown posted on Facebook by government spokesman U Zaw Htay.

U Aung Myo Kyaw, spokesman for the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an NGO, called for the release of at least eight more prisoners of conscience who remain in jail.

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Around 200 others in Myanmar are facing trials linked to political activities, he said. “The government can help them by cancelling the cases from the courts,” he told AFP.

Myanmar has freed thousands from its jails since 2011. Hundreds of political prisoners were released shortly after the civilian government of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi took office in 2016.

But hopes of a new era of free expression have been dampened by a surge in prosecutions under an online defamation law in recent years. 

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