Myanmar junta releases nearly 9,800 prisoners to mark independence anniversary

The regime also repeated its claims that it is planning to hold elections, as it struggles to hold onto power amid intensifying clashes with ethnic armed groups

Myanmar’s military regime marked the country’s 76th anniversary of independence from British colonial rule on Thursday by announcing an amnesty for nearly 9,800 prisoners, including 114 foreign citizens.

The junta-run broadcast network MRTV reported on the morning of January 4 that 9,766 prisoners would be released from prisons throughout Myanmar. 

Additional details about the identities of the amnestied detainees—including the nationalities of the foreign prisoners—could not yet be verified.

The military has arrested thousands of political opponents since seizing power in February 2021, including activists and peaceful protesters as well as several members of the civilian government led by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint. 

Suu Kyi, now 78, has been sentenced to 33 years in prison—later reduced to 27 years—after a series of convictions on what observers condemned as trumped up charges brought by the coup regime. 

The junta has marked special occasions with broad amnesties several times in the past. Critics have noted that the mass pardons were often granted to prisoners who had already served most of their sentences, and pointed to ex-prisoners whom the regime rearrested not long after they were released.

 People wait in front of Yangon’s Insein Prison last year after hearing of a mass amnesty for prisoners (Myanmar Now)

The current amnesty comes as the regime is facing unprecedented military losses in northern Shan State and other parts of the country where ethnic armed groups and resistance forces formed since the coup have waged a major offensive since late October.

The military has lost not just scores of bases but also entire towns in Shan State, Sagaing Region, and Chin State, despite its use of indiscriminate aerial and artillery attacks that have killed and injured hundreds of civilians and displaced at least 2.6 million around the country.

Against this backdrop, the junta has again claimed that it is preparing to hold elections despite the ongoing conflict, which it has repeatedly blamed for delays over the past three years.

In a speech delivered at a ceremony held to mark Myanmar’s independence anniversary, junta chief Min Aung Hlaing said his regime was ready to hand over power when conditions allowed.

“Continuous efforts will be made to hold a systematic election and [hand] over the State’s responsibilities to the government which would emerge from the election,” he said in the speech, which was published by state media on Thursday.

Related Articles

Back to top button