Myanmar’s military government began freeing tens of thousands of prisoners from Friday amid continuing protests against military coup.
Some 23,314 prisoners would be granted amnesty and released from Friday, Union Day, a national public holiday observing unification of the country, General Min Aung Hlaing said in a statement.
Mass prison releases are common on national holidays in Myanmar this is the first such amnesty from the new junta, which seized power in a coup on February 1, ousting democratically-elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and detaining key government officials.
The military justified taking control of the country by claiming widespread voting irregularities in the November 2020 election, which gave Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party (NLD) a second consecutive landslide victory.
In addition to the release, prisoners who are serving sentences for crimes committed before January 31, 2021, for any offense will also have their sentences reduced, according to the military statement.
In his address, Min Aung Hlaing said the prisoner amnesty was part of an effort to build a “democratic country with disciplines.”
It is unlikely for the ruling junta to release Suu Kyi or other government ministers or officials detained in the coup.
Meanwhile, protests and civil disobedience campaigns continued in towns and cities across the country. Videos and live streams posted online showed several groups marching in the biggest city Yangon, including medical workers and soccer fans.
The rallies have so far been largely peaceful but police have been recorded using water cannons against protesters. Police have also faced allegations they have deployed live rounds.