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Thousands released from Myanmar's prisons to mark Independence Day

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Prisoners freed from prisons across the country (Photo - EMG)

Myanmar released prisoners in the thousands across the country on January 3, to mark the country's 66th Independence Day today, under an amnesty order of President U Thein Sein. 

Under the presidential pardon dated January 2, the prisoners on death row are commuted to life imprisonment while those serving life imprisonment and those with more than 40 years to serve are to serve 40 years in prison.

Family members started arriving at the Insein Prison in Yangon from 4am that day, awaiting their relatives to be freed from the prison, due to news about pardon. At around 4pm, about 500 male and female prisoners, mostly serving their prison terms one-year or so, were released in groups. 

"He is only 17 years old. He was jailed for six years under a narcotic case. He has already served three years in the prison. I am very grateful to the President for releasing prisoners like this. Now we can use the money we spend for him in the prison to donate to monks," said a 67-year-old father from Dala Township, while awaiting his son at the Insein.

"We arrived here since 10am. My hubby was jailed six months for gambling. The whole family came here to welcome him. He must have now been well-learnt not to play gambling again," said Mi Chan Yin from Mon State, who is a wife waiting for her husband to be released from the prison.

Mawlamyaing 

Like the Insein prison in Yangon, the Mawlamyaing prison in Mon State also released a total of 199 male and female prisoners, starting from 1pm on January 3.

"I was jailed for murder. I committed it in anger. I am now regretful. My family cannot came to meet me. I'm from Htome Bo. I'm informed that I will be transported by car to there," said Thar Htoo who was serving 20 years in prison.

Thaton 

Likewise on the same day, the Thaton prison released 56 prisoners, only male.

Pakoukku

The Pakoukku prison in central Myanmar released 71 prisoners, 59 male and 12 female, including three who was imprisoned under the Military Act. All of them already served a quarter of their prison terms for several crimes.

Bago Region (West)

Likewise, 492 prisoners from 3 prisons in Bago West Region were freed on the morning of 3 January, 2014.

“Starting from 9:00 am, we are freeing 303 prisoners except for political prisoners,” said an official at Tharyarwaddy Prison Department.

Moreover, a hundred male prisoners and 13 female prisoners from Pyi prison, 71 male prisoners and 5 female prisoners were released respectively.

Kawthaung

On 3 January 2014, around 12:00 am, 107 prisoners were released from 9 Miles Prison of Kawthaung.

“The amnesty granted is one fourth of the original prison sentence. We released those who are within the frames set by the Presidential amnesty. Those left behind at the prison had to wait for their release after serving their sentences. All the prisoners are entitled to one fourth of the original sentence. No one wants to stay at the prisons away from their beloved ones. We are really pleased about the amnesty,” said Aye Thwin, Deputy Director of Tanintharyi Region Prison Department.

In Tanintharyi Region, there are 3 prisons and a prison camp. Seventy two male inmates and 9 female inmates from Dhawei Prison, 86 male inmates and 21 female inmates from Myeik Prison, and 93 male inmates from Shinbhyushin prison camp. A total of 393 inmates were released from the Tanintharyi Region.

“I was sentenced to 11 years in prison due to illegal selling of drugs. When I was sentenced to punishment, I was pregnant. I had to born my child in the prison. Now that my son is over 4 and half years old,” said a woman who got Presidential amnesty.

Myaungmya

According to the amnesty, 125 male inmates and 32 female inmates serving their sentences were released from Myaungmya prison. Three inmates were changed from death sentence to life in prison. An inmate was changed into over 40 years from 40 years in prison. 479 male inmates and 71 female inmates are entitled to one fourth of the amnesty.

Thayet

Over 200 inmates were released from Thayet prison on 3 January. Those released from the prisons were convicts of murder, theft, gambling and beating to another people.

There are 3 political prisoners in Thayet prison and one was released this time. He was a former student and an army officer of KIA.

“I was arrested in 1995. They (the then government) accused me of murder, robbery and rape cases which I never committed. I was sentenced to 57 years. There are two of my friends who were still serving the sentences. They are Sai Phone and Aung Ko Latt. I wanted them to get amnesty. I strongly opposed the demanding for the release of 21 ex-military intelligence. They are not political prisoners,” said political prisoner San Ko Oo.

The families of the Sai Phone and Aung Ko Latt were also present at the prison but they are saddened because their loved ones were not among the amnesty granted. The two inmates were forced to live in a prison cell according to the one from Taungtwingyi who stayed with them. Among those released was one woman from DKB for possessing and selling illegal drugs.

Hinthada

From the Hinthada prison, 102 inmates were released from the prison on 3 January.

Twenty five women and 77 men were released from the prison dividing three groups. 

“There are no inmates who are serving the long term sentences in this prison. There are prisoners serving only less than 10 years. There is no one sentencing the major crimes. Most of the prisoners are villagers and with minimal crimes. This amnesty is reducing the one fourth of the present sentence and so it is entitled to both who are released from the prison and left at the prison. We are also planning to send the list of those who are serving their sentences to the Director General office,” said Nay Soe of Hinthada Prison.

Meikhtila

Under the president's amnesty, the Meikhtila prison released a total of 116 prisoners, 75 male and 41 female, on the morning of January 3. 

"You're all requested to become law-abiding citizens from the time now you're released, as respectful to the government's good will," told Police Major Sit Nay Lin from Meikhtila District Police Department to the released.

"I was jailed six months for plowing again in my own farmland. My release date is also near. I'm not happy as my friends are not included in the amnesty. Thada Aung is now in jail for three-year prison term. Min Swe is also still in jail for two-year term. I'm not glad as they're not released," said Oo Bo, a released prisoner.

Kentung

The Kentung prison released 216 male and 30 female prisoners at 4pm on the day.

Myinchan

The Myinchan prison released 238 prisoners, 204 male and 34 female on the same day, to mark the Independence Day. 

Ayeyarwady Region

Four prisons including two special camps have released a total of 840 prisoners the same day. The Pathein prison released 254 prisoners including Maung Weit, [a well-known figure in the construction industry]. Other prisons are Myaingmya (156 prisoners released), Hinthada (102 released), Maupin (74 released), Pyapon (82 released), Kasake (87 released) and Sarmalouk (85 released).

"I'm feeling overwhelmed so I don't know how I should I start. Firstly, I want to thank the President and the authorities who granted us the pardon. I also want to thank Ko Zaganar Gyi, who was imprisoned in the same prison with me. I got the chance to know about the outside world through the media. I wish the media will last longer and be able to fulfill the country's duties.  I will try my best to carry out the duties as much as I can," said Maung Weit, a 40-year-old prisoner who was freed from Pathein Prison.

"My sincere wish is for Myanmar to become a country without any kind of bullying. Actually, deciding who is right or wrong, guilty or not guilty, convicted or not convicted all depends on the person who is making the decision.  In the way of the world, a deer is eaten by a tiger. They always say the tiger is wicked. If there is a wicked tiger, a hunter will come. This is the way of the world. In the end, tomorrow is just another day. Wickedness does not last long and Goodness also does not last long. Everything is impermanent," Maung Weit continued.

"I believe there are still many people that need to be freed. It will auspicious if they are set freed," he added.

In 2008, Maung Weit was given a 15-year sentence under Section 15-16 (e) of the Narcotics Law and also a 3-year sentence under Section 13 (a) of the Myanmar Immigration Act for failing to submit overnight guest list to the authorities. He was sentenced to prison for 18 years to serve both sentences. He has been freed after serving spending five years and a half in prison.

Kalay

A total of 356 prisoners have been freed from labour camps in Kalay and Tamu.

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