Prisoners Released During President Obama Myanmar Visit

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President Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to visit Myanmar, also known as Burma, on Monday according to Reuters. He met with former junta member President Thein Sein and with opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon.

The trip is intended to signal the seriousness of the administration's intent on focusing on East Asia following the winding down of both Iraq and Afghanistan. A report from the Associated Press indicated he closed his visit in Myanmar with a speech at Yangon University.

Here's a look at some of the latest information regarding President Obama's trip to Myanmar.

Mynamar releases 66 prisoners

On the day of President Obama's arrival, the southeast Asian country began releasing 66 prisoners, two-thirds of whom were dissidents, Reuters said in a separate report.

It was determined that the previous 452 prisoners granted amnesty were not prisoners of conscience, according to another report from the Associated Press. Activists were critical of the first amnesty and called on the reformist government to release others.

Among those released were Yan Shwe and Myint Aye, prominent activists who were placed in the country's gulag on what Amnesty International deemed trumped-up charges.

The government has said it will review all remaining prisoner cases by the end of December.

U.S. concerned regarding ethnic conflicts

While onboard Air Force One en route to Bangkok, Thailand, on Saturday, Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes responded to press questions regarding Myanmar, saying that the release of recent reforms "open the door" to renewed relations between the U.S. and Myanmar. But he noted the country has a long way to go before completing the transition to democracy.

"In addition to the democratic reforms," Rhodes said, "we've been concerned about the continued ethnic conflicts in Burma. The government has undertaken a number of ceasefires with different ethnic groups. That opens the door, we believe, towards lasting solutions to very longstanding, violent conflicts within Burma."

President Obama also mentioned the need to stop the ongoing violence during his visit, noting that "for too long, the people of this state, including ethnic Rakhine, have faced crushing poverty and persecution. But there's no excuse for violence against innocent people," as reported by Reuters.

Shawn Humphrey is a former contributor to The Flint Journal and an amateur Africanist, focusing his personal studies on human rights and political issues on the continent.

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