Due to the coronavirus scare, a court in Myanmar on Wednesday dropped cases against scores of Rohingya Muslims who were detained after they fled a military crackdown in 2017, AFP reported.
Myanmar’s security forces are accused of killings, gangrape and arson during a crackdown that drove more than 7,30,000 people to flee the Rakhine state to neighbouring Bangladesh after some Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts in August 2017.
As the coronavirus forces the world’s biggest cities and wealthiest countries into lockdown, fears over a potential outbreak in the Myanmar’s overcrowded prisons led to the release of 128 people. The Human Rights Watch has described Myanmar’s jails as “horribly overcrowded and unsanitary”.
“Charges against both adults and children are withdrawn and they are to be released,” Judge Khin Myat Myat Htun said. However, it is unclear where the Rohingya will be taken in Rakhine state, posing a potential humanitarian catastrophe during the crisis.
Four buses carrying the Rohingyas left the Pathein prison early Thursday morning. “Scores more are set to be released by other courts and sent back to Rakhine,” a Rohingya activist told AFP. “In total about 250 Rohingya are likely to be sent back on Saturday,” he added.
The World Health Organisation had also warned prison authorities about populations that are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic.
So far, Myanmar has recorded 22 coronavirus cases with three deaths.