Myanmar’s military junta released nine imprisoned activists on Saturday as part of a general amnesty to mark the start of the country’s traditional Buddhist New Year.
The nine activists, who were among 23,184 prisoners freed under the amnesty, were all due to be released in the coming months, according to observers.
Three of those freed on Saturday are members of Peacock Generation, a poetry troupe that was accused of undermining the military with a satirical performance during Thingyan, or the Myanmar New Year, two years ago.
Zeya Lwin, Paing Ye Thu and Paing Phyo Min were all found guilty in 2019 of violating section 505a of the Penal Code and section 66d of the Telecommunications Act.
They were each given sentences ranging from five and a half to six and a half years in prison.
However, under a commutation granted before the February 1 coup, their sentences were shortened and were due to end in the near future, according to a member of the troupe.
“The releases don’t mean that the junta cares about them. They were included in the list because they were going to be released soon, anyway,” said the Peacock Generation member, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Three other members of the troupe who were charged at the same time had been released before the military takeover two and a half months ago.
Meanwhile, the troupe reported that four more of its members were detained on Saturday morning.
Kyaw Min Tun, Shwe Yupa Lin, Soe Htet Oo and Min Htet Lin were on their way to an anti-coup rally when they were taken into custody, a troupe member told Myanmar Now.
No further details about their arrest were available at the time of reporting.
The other six activists released on Saturday are members of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) who were imprisoned late last year for taking part in protests against the war in Rakhine state.
Nyi Nyi Min Htet Wai, Thet Maung Maung, Myo Chit Zaw, Thuta Myi Nyi, Aung Khaing Min and Hla Tun Aung were released from Mandalay’s Obo prison, where they were serving sentences for allegedly defaming the military.
They had each been given more than a year in prison under sections 505a and 505b of the Penal Code for accusing the military of committing human rights abuses in the conflict.
All six were within months of completing their sentences. At least four other ABFSU members charged in connection with the anti-war campaign remain behind bars.
The prisoner releases come a day after lawmakers from Myanmar’s ousted civilian government announced the formation of a “national unity government” as part of an effort to consolidate resistance to the junta.
The regime has killed at least 700 civilians and detained more than 3,000 others since seizing power, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.