Yangon, Sept. 17 (Reuters): Myanmar may have released all of its remaining political prisoners in an amnesty for 514 detainees today, its main opposition party said, just over a week ahead of a rare visit by its reformist president to the United States.
“We’re optimistic that these are the remaining political prisoners,” said Naing Naing, a central executive committee member of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
The timing of the amnesty issued by President Thein Sein could accelerate the pace of reforms in the former military-run state and strengthen its growing bonds with the United States, which has called for the freeing of all remaining dissidents as a pre-condition for any further economic rewards after easing some sanctions this year.
Naing Naing said he understood 424 political detainees were freed in the amnesty. That figure would exclude inmates who were former military intelligence officials purged under the former junta.
Thein Sein, whose government released nearly 700 political prisoners between May 2011 and July this year, was due to head to the United States on September 24, where he will address the UN General Assembly in New York for the first time as President.
He is expected to use the event as a platform to showcase his government's reforms, attract much-needed aid and investment and try to convince the international community to lift all remaining sanctions, in particular, import bans on Myanmar-made products.
Opposition leader Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and pro-democracy champion, left on Sunday for the United States where she will receive a Congressional medal.
Suu Kyi in US
Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrived today in Washington, where she will be presented Congress’s highest award. It’s the latest milestone in her remarkable journey from political prisoner to globe-trotting stateswoman.