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 separate statement said that former president Win Myint was also pardoned for two offenses he was convicted for, which were violating coronavirus restrictions and sedition, cutting four years from his 12-year combined jail term. Win Myint was initially sentenced for a total of eight offenses.
The military’s True News Information Team sent video footage to journalists in which the spokesperson for the ruling military council Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun can be seen answering reporters’ questions and saying he has not received any information about the reports that Suu Kyi has already been transferred from prison to a residence in the capital Naypyitaw.
“I haven’t heard anything about it,” Zaw Min Tun told journalists on Tuesday.
News of her transfer to house arrest was reported last week but not officially confirmed.
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 military rule.
The justice ministry of the shadow National Unity Government, which views itself as the country’s legitimate administrative body, called on the country’s military rulers to immediately release all detained political prisoners including Suu Kyi, saying they were unjustly arrested and sentenced.
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 quoted acting president Myint Swe as saying “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 it was one-on-one between the ousted leader and the Thai diplomat.
Don revealed his visit to Suu Kyi during a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.
ASEAN has been seeking to mediate an end to the violent conflict in Myanmar, which some members believe destabilizes the region.