UN Chief Demands Release of All Remaining Myanmar Political Prisoners

By The Irrawaddy ​​​​​ 4 May 2023

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for the release of all political prisoners, including President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, following the junta’s release of more than 2,100 detainees.

His representative told the media on Wednesday that Guterres was encouraged by the releases but was deeply concerned about the junta’s ongoing violence, including against civilians, and arbitrary detentions.

The junta announced on Wednesday that it would free 2,153 prisoners jailed under Article 505(a) of the Penal Code for dissent against the military but warned that they would have to serve the rest of their sentences if they committed further offenses.

The junta said the amnesty marked a Buddhist holiday and followed visits by former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and a Chinese delegation.

However, thousands of political detainees remain behind bars and many of those released were close to completing their sentences.

A spokesman for the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) rights group said most of those released had served more than 18 months or were only charged under Article 505(a). Most of those detained by the junta since the 2021 coup have faced more than one charge.

He said some prisoners had reportedly been rearrested in Taungoo, Bago Region.

The releases were a well-worn ploy used by previous regimes to ease international pressure, the spokesman added.

“Other military dictators used political prisoners as hostages to reduce international pressure,” he said, adding that arbitrary arrests and sentencing continued.

“To achieve peace, the junta must be rooted out. More international pressure is needed to work with us,” the spokesman added.

The AAPP confirmed the release of 1,277 political prisoners in the amnesty.

It said more than 21,000 detentions have been made since the coup and over 17,000 people remain in jail.