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Myanmar Frees 8,500 Prisoners in New Year Pardon

Myanmar released nearly 8,500 prisoners including those jailed for their political activities starting from April 17 under a presidential amnesty as the newly elected President Win Myint observes a New Year tradition.

The pardon, granted on humanitarian grounds, was aimed at promoting peace and the joy of the people, said a statement from the Offce of the President. “To bring peace and to the delight of the people, and for humanitarian grounds, 8,490 prisoners from prisons nationwide will be pardoned,” the statement said. While most of those being released were drug convicts, 36 people were classifed as political prisoners. They were granted pardon after local rights group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) put them on the list of political prisoners to be submitted to President for amnesty. More than 50 foreigners were also liberated from jails according to the pardon.

In recent years when Myanmar started to open up, hundreds of political prisoners have been released from jails across the country in presidential amnesties in coincidence with traditional New Year. The tradition started in 2011 under Thein Sein administration, which launched multifaceted reforms following Myanmar’s emancipation from decades-long military rule.

There were 240 political activists jailed or awaiting trial in Myanmar prior to April 17 amnesty, according to the AAPP.