Myanmar announces release of 452 prisoners (Goodwill gesture ahread of Obama visit)
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) - Myanmar ordered 452 prisoners freed Thursday 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. Myanmar's government has long insisted that all prisoners are criminals and releases no official information on who is a political prisoner, where they are detained and how many remain jailed.
"This is extremely disappointing because we haven't heard of any political prisoners being released. This is a shame," said U Naing Naing of the Central Social Assistance Committee, which helps families of political prisoners.
Other groups that monitor political prisoners gave similar reports. Many political detainees are in remote areas where communications are difficult, so the extent of the release may not be known for several days.