MANDALAY — Five inmates of Mandalay’s Obo Prison who passed Myanmar’s matriculation exam with honors in June were released on Monday under a Presidential pardon.
“I want to say thanks to the president and other authorities, including the prison superintendent and teachers, for making our dreams of attending university come true,” said one of the prisoners 19-year-old Ma Shun Lae Wai Kyaw.
“I also want to tell everyone, especially young people, to stay away from drugs, which will affect your life goals,” she added.
In total, seven Obo Prison inmates passed the matriculation exams for the 2016-17 academic year.
The five who passed with honors—four males and one female—were pardoned.
“I was so surprised and cried with joy when the warden told me I will be released,” said Ko Hlaing Min Oo, a Kayah man from Loikaw, who passed the exam with one distinction.
Ko Hlaing Min Oo, 18, was charged under Myanmar’s narcotics law and sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment. He had already served more than two years.
“I called my mother and she was overjoyed. She is now on her way to bring me back home,” said Hlaing Min Oo. “At the same time, I feel sad for my friends who have no chance to get out of the prison yet,” he added.
Superintendent of Obo Prison U Cho Win Tun thanked President U Htin Kyaw and other officials who had shown concern for the prisoners’ future.
“I am so happy, [the inmates] are like my own children,” he said.
Two other inmates from Insein Prison in Yangon who passed the exam with honors also received a presidential pardon and were released on the same day.
According to figures from the Ministry of Education, 41 inmates from Obo, Insein, Tharyarwaddy and Hpa-An prisons took the 2016-17 matriculation exam, and 16 of them passed.
This was the first academic year in which Obo Prison inmates could sit the exam at the prison—before, they had to travel to Insein Prison for the exam.
According to prison officials, in Obo Prison alone, there were 38 inmates studying from grade 6 through matriculation this year. The classes were mainly taught by teachers who were also imprisoned. Teachers from local high schools helped prepare them for the matriculation exams under a program run by the education ministry.