Myanmar: Military threatens pardoned prisoners with rearrest if they speak out again

  • Military say they have pardoned 2,153 prisoners to mark a Buddhist holiday
  • More than 17,000 people still detained after post-coup mass round-ups
  • ‘Amnesty remains deeply concerned about the thousands of individuals who are still unjustly languishing in prisons across the country’ – Ming Yu Hah

Responding to news that the military authorities in Myanmar have pardoned 2,153 prisoners jailed under a law making it illegal to encourage dissent against the military, Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns, said:

“This long-overdue release should mark the first step towards the immediate release of all individuals who have been arbitrarily detained for exercising their basic rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly or other human rights.

“Amnesty remains deeply concerned about the thousands of individuals who are still unjustly languishing in prisons across the country where they face torture and other ill-treatment.

“Anyone imprisoned for peacefully opposing the military coup in Myanmar should never have been jailed in the first place. Upon release they should be provided with the necessary medical, psychological and social support to help them recover from their ordeal.

Peaceful dissent is not a crime, it is a human right.

“Prisoners released today were charged and sentenced under a law specifically used by the military to smother dissent after the coup. However, the military warned it would detain them again if they are deemed to have committed the same ‘crime’ in the future, which effectively places a chilling effect on many people wanting to exercise their basic rights and freedoms.”

Thousands still detained

The military said it was pardoning the prisoners on “humanitarian” grounds to mark a Buddhist holiday but did not provide their names. Since the 2021 coup, Myanmar’s military have arrested more than 21,000 people, and at least 17,000 – including many of the ousted civilian government’s senior leaders, journalists, human rights defenders and medical workers – remain in detention, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Amnesty has documented widespread human rights violations since the coup, including war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, as part of the military’s crackdown on the opposition across the country. In its report 15 Days Felt like 15 Years, Amnesty documented the situation after the coup inside prisons and interrogation facilities, showing that torture and other ill-treatment was routinely used to punish dissent.