With Eye on Obama Visit, Burma Frees 452 Prisoners

But activists criticized move

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Nov 15, 2012 9:00 AM CST

(Newser) – Burma ordered 452 prisoners freed today in an apparent goodwill gesture ahead of a historic visit by President Barack Obama—but activists criticized the move for failing to focus on hundreds of political detainees. It was not immediately clear if any political prisoners were among those granted freedom, prompting rights groups to renew calls for the government to shed light on one of the world's most opaque prison systems.

"This is extremely disappointing because we haven't heard of any political prisoners being released," said one group. Other groups that monitor political prisoners gave similar reports. New York-based Human Rights Watch accused the government of using strategically timed prisoner releases to appease the international community. "The government of Burma has said they are committed to releasing all political prisoners. So why haven't they?" said the group's deputy Asia director. Burma's main opposition movement estimates that at least 330 political prisoners remain incarcerated.

Ther reformist government ordered more than 450 prisoners freed Thursday in an amnesty apparently intended as a goodwill gesture ahead of an historic visit by President Barack Obama next week.
Ther reformist government ordered more than 450 prisoners freed Thursday in an amnesty apparently intended as a goodwill gesture ahead of an historic visit by President Barack Obama next week.   (Khin Maung Win)
A prisoner, center, is welcomed by her relative outside Insein prison in Yangon after the political prisoners were released Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012.
A prisoner, center, is welcomed by her relative outside Insein prison in Yangon after the political prisoners were released Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012.   (Khin Maung Win)
Prisoners walk outside Insein prison in Yangon.
Prisoners walk outside Insein prison in Yangon.   (Khin Maung Win)
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