YANGON – Myanmar released more than 250 prisoners under a presidential amnesty ahead of a fresh round of peace talks with rebel groups on Wednesday, Turkey’s Anadolu Agency (AA) reported.
The office of President Htin Kyaw said in a statement late Tuesday that it had released 259 inmates, including 73 mostly Chinese foreigners as a gesture of goodwill.
The rights monitor, Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), said 10 political prisoners including two Muslim activists — Zaw Zaw Latt and Pyint Phyu Latt, who were each given four-year jail sentences last year for visiting rebels in northern Kachin state — were released under the amnesty.
Among the released was former Religious Affairs Minister San Sint, who was removed from office and sentenced to 13 years in prison for alleged misuse of around US$10,000 to build a pagoda, the association said. His was arrested after warning about the spreading of anti-Muslim hate speech by the ultra-nationalist Ma Ba Tha group.
The presidency said the amnesty was to welcome the opening of the Union Peace Conference’s second session in the capital Nay Pyi Ta.
More than 1,000 representatives from the government, military, ethnic armed groups, political parties and civil society organisations gathered in Nay Pyi Taw for talks aimed at ending the world’s longest running civil war.
Among the attendees were leaders from seven major rebel groups, including the Chinese-backed United Wa State Army, which are yet to sign a cease-fire deal with the government.
State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi said in her opening address that the conference is the only way to end all armed conflicts countrywide and to establish “perpetual peace”.
“The conference will open a new historical page of political dialogue,” she said.