Myanmar prisoner amnesty ahead of Obama visit
YANGON, Myanmar - Myanmar officials late Wednesday, November 14 said prisoners will be released in amnesty just days before US President Barack Obama arrives in a visit which is seen as an endorsement of democratic reforms in the former army-ruled nation.
"The announcement will be printed tomorrow in the state run newspaper," presidential office spokesman Zaw Htay told AFP while a second official, requesting anonymity, said 450 prisoners will be released.
It was not immediately clear who would benefit from the amnesty and whether scores of political prisoners still languishing in Myanmar's jails would be among those freed.
Myanmar has already granted amnesty to hundreds of political prisoners as part of reforms responsible for a dramatic thaw in relations between the West and the long-isolated nation formerly called Burma.
The last major amnesty of political prisoners came in September when dozens of dissidents were among more than 500 inmates pardoned.
Obama, who was re-elected just under a fortnight ago, will visit Myanmar on November 19. He will meet democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and President Thein Sein on the first visit to the country by a sitting US president.
His visit has been lauded by Myanmar's presidential office as a sign of the US leader's confidence in reforms which have swept the nation since a nominally-civilian government replaced the junta in 2011.
No one is sure exactly how many political prisoners still remain behind bars but before the last amnesty in September opposition groups said around 300 activists were in jails around the country. - Agence France-Presse