Over 8,500 prisoners, including three dozen jailed in political cases, were granted pardons by Myanmar president Win Myint on the occasion of Thingyan, a Buddhist new year festival.
President Win Myint, who took office last month granted pardons on humanitarian grounds as a part of an annual amnesty marking the country’s traditional New Year.
The amnesty was extended mostly to drug offenders. 50 of the total prisoners granted pardons were foreigners while 36 were political prisoners, according to a statement posted on Facebook by government spokesman Zaw Htay.
The move to grant amnesty was welcomed by Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an NGO that helps political prisoners.
The NGO spokesperson Aung Myo Kyaw said the government could do more and demanded the release of at least eight more prisoners of conscience who remain in jail.
“Around 200 others in Myanmar are facing trials linked to political activities. The government can help them by cancelling the cases from the courts,” said Kyaw.
Myanmar has freed thousands from its jails since a military junta ceded power in 2011 after five decades of brutal repression.
Hundreds of political prisoners were released shortly after the civilian government of former democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi took office in 2016 following a sweeping election victory.
(With inputs from agencies)