Myanmar junta releases hundreds of prisoners on country's Unity Day

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By Euronews
Myanmar junta releases hundreds of prisoners on country's Unity Day
Copyright  AP/AP

On the 75th anniversary of Union Day in Myanmar, its military junta announced that it would release over 800 prisoners from its jails on Saturday.

As of Friday, the government was keeping 9,087 people under detention, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. 

In a customary gesture for national holidays, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing -- head of the military council that seized power last year -- announced an amnesty for the prisoners, but it was unclear how many political detainees were among those freed.

Crowds gathered outside one detention centre in Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, to see if any of their loved ones were being released as two buses full of people left the facility. 

One of the people present at the scene, Daw Lwin Lwin Moe, said she was waiting for her 19-year-old daughter, arrested for incitement against the military last year. 

However, it is still unclear whether political activists and prisoners are among those being released.

Myanmar has been in political turmoil since February 2021, when the military seized control after a general election which saw Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD party win by a landslide. The army had backed the opposition. 

The coup created protests, internal conflict and violent crackdowns, with many describing it as a civil war.

About 1,500 civilians have been killed but the government has been unable to suppress opposition.

Matthew Saltmarsh, a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, says that currently, "security is deteriorating rapidly across the country as fighting and armed conflict intensifies with no sign of abating".

The UNHCR forecasts that there will be an acceleration in displacements in the coming weeks and months.

The head of Myanmar’s military government appealed Saturday for national unity among the country’s restive ethnic minorities as he presided over a parade marking the 75th anniversary of a historic agreement that has failed to ensure harmony.

In a prepared statement released Saturday, Min Aung Hlaing acknowledged that the conflicts with the minorities have yet to be resolved, saying that had slowed the country's development.

He later oversaw the parade in the capital Naypyitaw with members of the armed forces and government ministries marching past. It also included dozens of elaborate colourful floats representing the country’s regions where the minorities predominantly live.

"The patriotic spirit is defined as adoring the own country, national races, language, literature and culture and having a feeling against the encroachment on the nation and the national races,” he said. “The weak patriotic spirit can bring terrible danger to the national and the national races.”

Additional sources • AP