Myanmar Spring Chronicle – April 17 Scenes
MoeMaKa, April 18 2023
An amnesty announced as a symbol of Myanmar Traditional New Year Day
Usually, prisoners are released on New Year Day after the Myanmar traditional Thingyan occasion to welcome the New Year. This year, the military council announced that around 3,000 prisoners had been released. Since the coup in 2021, the military council has been shooting, beating, torturing and killing those who opposed the coup during interrogation, and the largest numbers are being arrested. Most of the arrested people were sentenced by non-independent civil courts and military courts in martial law areas. According to the recorded number of AAPP, there have been more than 20,000 people arrested, so it can be said that it is one of the most arrests in a short period of time in Myanmar. Of the more than 20,000 people arrested, more than 17,000 are still in detention. These figures are only the number of people arrested for political reasons, and do not include the number of people arrested for crimes that have been going on since the military coup.
The military council has arrested and detained prisoners that are beyond the capacity of the prisons, so there is a constant need to reduce the number of prisoners. After the coup, most of the prisons were accepting many times more than the permitted number. In other words, to put it simply, it is a situation of prison overflow. Those who have been released say that when they spend the night in prisons, they have to sleep touching each other and on their sides for a little relief. If you want to sleep in the farthest row of the dormitories or in a well-ventilated area, you have to pay a bribe of over 80 thousand to 1 lakh Myanmar Kyats.
Due to these situations, there is a need for the military council to reduce the number of people in prisons, so they released thousands of people who had committed crimes such as theft, drug use, desertion, burglary, robbery, pickpocketing, and assault on these special days. And by releasing a few political prisoners among those who are freed, they often do deceptive acts to give the impression that they have a great attitude. You will see that there are not even a few hundred political prisoners among the roughly 3,000 prisoners that were released today. Less than a few hundred political prisoners were released on Independence Day in 2022 and 2023, despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of political prisoners received amnesties during June and October 2021. None of the people prosecuted or convicted under the Anti-Terrorism Act were included in the release, but some people convicted under Section 505 who had just a few months left to serve their sentences and several over 75 years old were. It appears that the military council has not released any of those accused of being related to the armed attack, those associated with urban guerrilla groups, or those accused of being their supporters.
Among those who were released on the New Year Day of Thingyan this year, there were not even ten inmates who were freed from the political field and activists, members of the NLD party, and the news media. U Kyaw Win, who was a former Minister of Planning and Finance under the NLD regime, a leader of the NLD Party from Lewe, and a freelance journalist from Sagaing were included among the released, and most of them were over 75 years of age, so it is assumed that they were released.
The remaining 3,000 people who were freed with amnesty are only those who have been convicted of crimes. This time, the amnesty is no more than a reduction in the number of inmates to make it easier to feed and reduce the number of people in the prison.
For the families of more than 17,000 political detainees who are still in prison, they will have to wait for the return of their loved ones.