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Myanmar Frees Over 100 Political Prisoners, Jails 2
International

Myanmar Frees Over 100 Political Prisoners, Jails 2

More than 100 political prisoners in Myanmar have been freed under an amnesty ordered by the country’s new de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, as her first official act.
The state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper on Saturday cited police as saying that 113 political detainees were freed across the country. Their freedom came along with a general amnesty for ordinary convicts ahead of Myanmar’s traditional New Year festival, often the occasion for prisoner releases, AP reported.
The move was praised by human rights advocates, but a jarring note was struck when two peace activists the same day on Friday were each sentenced to two years with hard labor for activities bringing them into contact with an armed ethnic rebel group that has been battling the central government.
A court in the central city of Mandalay sentenced Zaw Zaw Latt and Pwint Phyu Latt under a law barring associating with an unlawful organization for their contacts with the Kachin Independence Army, a guerrilla group in the country’s far north. Both were already sentenced in February to two years’ imprisonment for immigration law violations.
The two are members of an interfaith religious organization and said that they had been seeking to help refugees from fighting. Both are also Muslims, a minority that has faced increasing pressure and violence in recent years in overwhelmingly Buddhist Myanmar.
Their case was generally overlooked in the euphoria over the release of prisoners, especially more than 60 students and activists in central Myanmar who had been held for a year pending trial after being arrested for their protest against changes in education policy.
Under the previous government that took power in 2011, more than 1,100 political detainees were released. The junta that held power before then kept Suu Kyi under house arrest for a number of years and jailed hundreds of her supporters and other critics.
It was Suu Kyi’s first official act in her new job, which is akin to that of prime minister. By agreement of her party, Suu Kyi is the de facto head of government, though the military-era constitution does not allow her to be president because her two sons have British citizenship.
Shortly before her party won a landslide victory in last November’s election, she announced her intention to run the government by being “above the president”.

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