Myanmar’s government began releasing about 2,300 prisoners on Wednesday, including activists who were detained for protesting against the military’s seizure of power in February and journalists who reported on the protests, officials said.
Buses took prisoners out of Yangon’s Insein Prison, where friends and families of detainees had waited since morning for the announced releases. It is standard practice to take freed prisoners to the police stations where they were originally booked to complete the processing for their freedom. Zaw Zaw, head of the Yangon Region’s Prison Department, confirmed that more than 720 people were released from the prison, which for decades has been the main facility for political prisoners. According to official announcements on state media, most if not all of the freed detainees faced charges related to the protests, including Section 505(A) of Myanmar’s penal code, which makes it a crime to spread comments that create public unrest or fear or spread false news, and carries a penalty of up to three years in prison.
The government is eager to cultivate goodwill among the public, a large part of which is hostile to it. On Tuesday it announced that it was dropping charges against about two dozen celebrities who had taken a role in the protests. It would also like to soften its international image.