Myanmar’s new president, Htin Kyaw, pardoned 83 prisoners who were held for political crimes, officials said Sunday, according to reports. The report comes just weeks after the country's first non-military government in about five decades came to power.
The order was signed by Htin Kyaw on Saturday and a report by Reuters said that the pardon was aimed at “national reconciliation and peace of mind” as part of the celebrations for Myanmar’s new year. Among the prisoners released were four journalists and an executive from the newspaper Unity Journal, who were sentenced in 2014 to 10 years of hard labor after they reported on an alleged military chemical weapons factory, a source said, according to Reuters.
“As far as I know, (those being released) are people considered by rights groups to be political prisoners,” the source said, according to Reuters.
A report by the Associated Press (AP) said that it was not clear how many people remained in custody, but over 1,000 people were released under the former quasi-civilian government, which tried to bring in openness and democracy.
“In the New Year, in order to give satisfaction to the majority of the people, we will continue to try to release political prisoners, political activists, and students facing trials related to politics,” Htin Kyaw said in a nationally televised address, according to AP, adding: “We also have to try to avoid such arrests in the future.”
The new National League for Democracy (NLD) government, which came to power on April 1, has reportedly released or dropped charges against 282 people accused of political crimes.
The AP report added that Htin Kyaw is a confidante of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of NLD. After last November’s general election, she was given a specially created post of “state counsellor,” equivalent to that of a prime minister.