Myanmar has announced a second pardon for nearly 7,000 prisoners nationwide in the wake of the Burmese New Year.
President Win Myint signed the pardon for the release of 6,948 inmates across the country, bringing the total number of prisoners recently released to 16,499 since the nation’s new year which started on April 17, his office said in a statement on Friday.
Under the first presidential pardon, some 9,551 prisoners, including only two political prisoners, were released to mark the beginning of the new year.
Further releases would be made, according to the statement which is void of details.
However, two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo – who were imprisoned as they investigated the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys in the western Rakhine state – were not pardoned, according to their lawyer.
The pair, who are among Reuters staff recently winning the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting, were still behind bars in Yangon’s infamous Insein Prison, lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told Anadolu news agency by phone on Friday.
“As the statement mentioned, there will be further pardons, family members are still hoping the release of their loved ones,” he said.
The Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (Burma), (AAPP Burma), based in the western Mae Sot city of Thailand, said the group is still waiting for information on how many political prisoners were included.
“We don’t think a large number of political prisoners would be released,” Bo Kyi, the secretary of the non-profit human rights organisation, told Anadolu Agnecy by phone.
On Monday, the military-controlled Home Affairs Ministry said that there are no political prisoners in Myanmar, but that people jailed are in prison under the country’s existing laws and penal code for criminal acts.
However, AAPP Burma said in a monthly chronicle for March that at least 45 political prisoners have been convicted since the current government led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi took office in March 2016.
Another 94 await trial in prison, while 225 others are on bail pending trial, said the human rights NGO.