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Myanmar junta to release more than 9,000 prisoners

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YANGON,  Myanmar – Myanmar’s junta announced an amnesty for more than 9,000 prisoners on Thursday, part of an annual release to mark the country’s Independence Day.

The traditional event comes as the army, which took power in a military coup in 2021, faces growing resistance from allied groups in the country’s north.

A coalition of ethnic armed groups has said it has captured military positions and border hubs vital for trade with China, posing a serious threat to the junta, according to analysts.

Independence Day in Myanmar has previously been marked by a parade in the capital Naypyidaw, followed by an address from junta chief Min Aung Hlaing.

But the junta leader was absent this year, leaving a subordinate to read prepared remarks in his stead.

In a statement Thursday, the State Administration Council, as the junta calls itself, said it had “granted amnesty to 9,652 prisoners from respective prisons and jails as a gesture for the 76th Independence Day and to respect the peace in peoples’ hearts and minds”.

There was no immediate indication that political detainees were among those to be released.

In a separate statement, the junta said that 114 foreign prisoners were among those granted amnesty and would be deported “on bilateral relations and humanitarian grounds”.

No further details were given.

In the commercial capital Yangon, friends and family members of prisoners gathered outside Insein prison, where detainees were to be released.

Myanmar declared independence from British colonial rule on January 4, 1948, after a long fight championed by General Aung San, ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s father.

Independence Day is normally marked with festive street games, marches, and gatherings in public parks and spaces.

This year, the celebration in Naypyidaw was much diminished — a far cry from the parade of troops, missile launchers and armored cars that rolled through the city last year.

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