Myanmar Regime Reduces Jailed Leaders’ Sentences Under Prisoner Amnesty

Myanmar’s military regime cut six years from detained democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s 33-year combined sentence as part of a general amnesty on Tuesday.

The amnesty marking an important Buddhist religious day—Dhamma Cakka Day, which falls on Tuesday—also saw a four-year reduction in the sentence of ousted President U Win Myint of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) government, which was toppled by a military coup in 2021.

The regime announced pardons for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in five criminal cases filed against her in 2021 for alleged offenses including incitement and violations of the disaster management, telecommunications and export-import laws.

She has been convicted in a total of 19 cases. The 78-year-old continues to serve a combined 27-year sentence in the remaining 14 cases.

U Win Myint was pardoned in two cases—incitement and breaching the disaster management law—and continues to serve sentences handed down in six others.

Both have been detained by the regime since the first day of the takeover. Though they were put under house arrest initially, they were later transferred to prisons. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was reportedly moved to home confinement late last month but the junta has yet to confirm the move.

The regime’s partial pardons for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and U Win Myint failed to impress Myanmar people, many of whom took to social media to express their views. “Why should we bother to thank them [for the pardons], as they [Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and U Win Myint] should not have been arrested in the first place?” said one.

U Kyaw Zaw, a spokesperson for Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG), told The Irrawaddy that the pardons were nothing more than “cosmetic” and called for the unconditional release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, U Win Myint and all political prisoners. The NUG was formed by elected lawmakers from the NLD and their ethnic allies to challenge the junta politically at home and abroad. Many in Myanmar consider it their legitimate government.

“The move comes straight out of the regime’s dirty politics playbook to ease international pressure,” he said.

Since the coup and the ensuing bloody crackdowns on protesters, the regime has been struggling to cope with the impacts of international sanctions and widespread armed resistance at home.

Tuesday’s amnesty saw the release of more than 7,000 people detained at prisons across the country. Among them were 71 people detained for their affiliations with ethnic armed organizations. At the time of reporting on Tuesday afternoon, some political prisoners had reportedly been released but the exact number was not available yet.

The clemency came one day after the junta extended its military rule for another six months—the fourth such extension since the coup.

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