YANGON — The government released five members of the New Mon State Party (NMSP) from the state’s Kyaikmaraw Prison on Wednesday morning, following the group’s recent decision to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).
The five were arrested in 2017 for unlawful weapons possession and under Article 17 (1) of the Unlawful Association Act.
“I don’t know if they were released with a presidential pardon or something else. But this release contributes to trust-building while we are working to sign the NCA. As we are signing the NCA, Article 17 (1) of the Unlawful Association Act won’t apply to us any longer,” said Nai Aung Mangne, an NMSP central executive committee member.
According to Nai Aung Mangne, three of the five NMSP members were arrested for unlawful weapons possession and the other two for unlawful association.
“The three who were arrested for unlawful weapons possession were sentenced to six months in prison, and the two others to two years and three months. We view their release as trust building, which is the top priority for us and the government,” he said.
The Facebook pages of several government bodies, including the President’s Office, State Counselor’s Office and Home Affairs Ministry did not announce their release until Wednesday evening.
When contacted by The Irrawaddy, U Aung Soe, a member of the government’s Peace Commission, said he was away from the office and could not comment.
The NMSP agreed to sign the NCA after a delegation led by party chairman Nai Htaw Mon held separate meetings with State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar Army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing on Jan. 23.
The previous administration of President U Thein Sein removed the original eight signatories to the NCA from the government’s list of unlawful associations three days before they ratified the agreement in October 2015.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.