In a bid to take precautionary measures in prisons amid deadly coronavirus outbreak, Myanmar has decided to release nearly 25,000 inmates, which sums up to more than a quarter of the country’s prison population. The announcement was made by Myanmar President, Win Myint’s office on April 17 as overcrowded and under-facilitated jails during the times of pandemic raised fears. Even though, the Southeast Asian nation permits annual amnesty to thousands of prisons every year to mark the April New Year Holiday, this year, the number is the largest ever recorded.
The declaration was made by Myanmar Presidency as the country has reported 85 cases of coronavirus infections and four deaths. However, according to reports, officials believe the number of people affected by COVID-19 in the country is much higher. Countries around the world, including US, Colombia, parts of Europe, have been worrying over the situation of prisoners in jails, which have the potential of becoming a virus hotspot if left undealt in the preliminary stages.
The statement by Myanmar President’s office said, “To mark Myanmar New Year, by respecting humanitarian ground and peace in mind of the people, the president pardons altogether 24,896 prisoners from various prisons”.
The move by Myanmar came when earlier, the United Nations had urged the governments to “not forget those behind bars” and protect the staff members working in confined facilities. According to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, the consequences of neglecting the prison and detention centres could be “potentially catastrophic”. She acknowledged that governments around the world have been making “difficult decisions” with huge demands of resources during the pandemic. The UN official even laid out the measures the authorities could take in order to reduce risks of COVID-19 in prisons including reduction of the number of people and examination of ways to release particularly vulnerable detainees.
Bachelet said, “But I urge them not to forget those behind bars, or those confined in places such as closed mental health facilities, nursing homes and orphanages because the consequences of neglecting them are potentially catastrophic."