Myanmar [JURIST news archive] announced on Wednesday that it has freed 452 prisoners ahead of a visit by US President Barack Obama [official profile]. Myanmar's state-run media reported that the government has released the prisoners on humanitarian grounds and as a goodwill gesture by the nation. However, Myanmar's main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) [official website, in Burmese] criticized the government's decision [AP report], saying that the government has not released any of the estimated 330 political prisoners currently incarcerated in Myanmar. It is unclear if any of the 452 prisoners released are political ones because the government has not provided details on which prisoners have been freed. Obama is scheduled to visit Myanmar on Monday.
Concern over Myanmar's human rights record has been growing recently. Last month Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged the government of Myanmar to do more to end sectarian violence [JURIST report] between the Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims. In August Physicians for Human Rights reported that Myanmar's army is still committing human rights abuses [JURIST report] against ethnic minorities in Karen state. Earlier that month HRW accused [JURIST report] Myanmar security forces of human rights abuses against a minority religious community. In July UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also expressed concern [JURIST report] about both the continued violence in Myanmar and the country's human rights abuses committed in dealing with it.