(Reuters) – Relatives of hundreds of prisoners gathered outside Myanmar’s Insein prison on Sunday after the military government announced the release of 1,600 prisoners as part of an amnesty to mark the nation’s New Year. ‘South East Asia.
The number of prisoners released in the annual amnesty was a fraction of last year’s 23,000. It was unclear whether this would include imprisoned members of the civilian government toppled in a February 1, 2021 coup.
A local reporter at the scene told Reuters that no political protesters had been released from Insein so far.
Lt. Gen. Aung Lin Dwe, the junta’s secretary of state, signed a statement announcing that “1,619 prisoners, including 42 foreign detainees, will be released under the amnesty as part of the celebration Myanmar New Year’s Day, to bring joy to the people and address humanitarian concerns.”
The army has arrested at least 13,282 people and killed 1,756 opponents since the coup, according to the activist group Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners (AAPP).
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Among those detained are ousted government leader Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, held in the capital Naypyidaw, and her Australian economic adviser, Sean Turnell, who is at Insein facilities on the outskirts of Yangon .
“The junta is using political prisoners as hostages,” an AAPP spokesman told Reuters on Sunday. A junta spokesman, who disputed the AAPP figures, did not respond to a request for comment.
Standing near plainclothes police on Sunday, nervous-looking families held signs with the names of their loved ones, said the local reporter, who asked not to be named for security reasons.
The mother of a 22-year-old protester arrested eight months ago told the reporter she was waiting outside Insein after her son wrote he could be freed in an amnesty in April.
Another mother, whose police son was arrested in June for taking part in the civil disobedience movement against the junta, said she had waited outside the prison on several occasions during previous amnesty periods .
“I have a feeling he will be released today,” she added, asking not to be named for fear of reprisals, the reporter said.
(Reporting by Reuters staff; Editing by William Mallard)
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