BANGKOK (AP) — Myanmar’s military-led government has reduced the prison sentences of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a clemency connected to a religious holiday in the Buddhist-majority country, state media said Tuesday.
Former President Win Myint also had his sentence reduced as part of the clemency granted to more than 7,000 prisoners.
But Suu Kyi, 78, still must serve a total of 27 years out of the 33 she was originally imprisoned for.
The head of Myanmar’s military council, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, granted the clemency order to reduce the sentences in five cases against Suu Kyi in which she was convicted for violating coronavirus restrictions, illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies and sedition, according to a report on state MRTV.
She was initially sentenced for 19 offenses that her supporters and rights group say were attempts to discredit her and legitimize the 2021 army takeover while preventing her return to politics.
The clemency was announced a day after Myanmar’s military extended the state of emergency it imposed when it seized power from Suu Kyi’s elected government 2 1/2 years ago, forcing a further delay in elections it promised when it took over.
Several of Suu Kyi’s cases are awaiting final appeals.
Min Aung Hlaing pardoned a total of 7,749 prisoners and commuted the death sentences of others to commemorate the day the Buddha gave his first sermon, the MRTV report said.
The army leader also granted amnesty to 125 foreign prisoners and 22 members of ethnic armed groups, it added. The announcement said he dropped cases against 72 people connected to ethnic armed groups.
It wasn’t immediately clear if any of the released prisoners included the thousands of political detainees locked up for opposing army rule.
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a rights monitoring organization, 24,123 people have been arrested in Myanmar since the army takeover. At least 3,857 civilians have been killed by security forces in the same period, the group says.
MRTV said it was necessary to extend the state of emergency for another six months because there is still a lot of work to be done to return the country to normalcy and time is needed to prepare for an election.
The United Nations on Monday called on Myanmar to return to democratic rule.
The clemency also came three weeks after Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai met Suu Kyi in prison, becoming the first foreign visitor to be granted access to her since she was detained. Don told journalists she was in good health and conveyed her willingness to engage in talks to resolve the crisis gripping her strife-torn nation.
Suu Kyi has been unable to give her version of the July 9 meeting, said to have lasted about an hour-and-a-half. Myanmar’s military confirmed the meeting had been held, but said it had no details because its was one-on-one between the ousted leader and the Thai diplomat.
Don revealed the event when he was attending a meeting in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. ASEAN has been seeking to mediate an end to the violent conflict in Myanmar, which some members believe destabilizes the region.