Skip to comments.Myanmar to free 452 prisoners before Obama visit
Posted on 11/14/2012 11:51:06 PM PST by bruinbirdman
Myanmar is set to free hundreds of prisoners on Thursday, officials said, just days ahead of a landmark visit by US President Barack Obama to a country emerging from decades of military rule.
Relatives of the scores of political detainees still languishing in jails were waiting anxiously to learn whether they would be among those released.
A prison department official said 452 prisoners would walk free on Thursday morning.
"There are some foreigners included in the amnesty," he added, speaking on condition of anonymity, without giving details of their nationalities. The planned release was also announced in state media.
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has already freed hundreds of political prisoners incarcerated by the former junta as part of reforms that have led to a dramatic thaw in relations between the former pariah nation and the West.
Obama will on Monday become the first sitting US president ever to visit Myanmar, where he will talk with President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Democracy campaigner Suu Kyi was herself released by the regime in 2010 after years under house arrest.
A spokesman for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) welcomed the latest amnesty, but questioned its timing.
"It is strange that they released prisoners just before Obama's visit," Ohn Kyaing told AFP.
"They should have done it before and showed their genuine will to give the amnesty," he said, adding that it was unclear if any NLD members were among those due to be released.
The last major amnesty in September saw dozens of dissidents freed just ahead of a historic visit to the United Nations in New York by Thein Sein, but left many political prisoners behind bars.
Estimates of their number vary but the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a Thailand-based campaign group, put the current figure at 283 in a list posted on its website on October 31.
The visit by Obama -- fresh from his re-election victory -- has been lauded by Myanmar as a sign of confidence in the reforms introduced under a nominally civilian government, which replaced the junta in March 2011.
It also comes as deadly communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims in the country's impoverished west casts a shadow over the political changes.
Clashes in Rakhine State have claimed 180 lives since June and forced more than 110,000 people, mainly Rohingya Muslims, into makeshift camps.
No one in the mainstream press will point out Obama’s strange sense of priority. Visiting an oppressive Asian country the world has shunned for decades instead of staying in Washington and working in a bipartisan way on the looming fiscal cliff crisis.
Ironic that this should come just as the US regime is gearing up to detain more and more political prisoners, not the least of which is Mark Basseley Youssef, recently jailed for the crime of insulting Islam.
Indianapolis was the recipient of thousands of Burmese refugees over the past few years. They are Christians who were being persecuted by the junta (military government) and were brought over with the assistance of Catholic Social Services.
The unfortunate thing is that they seem to have been given that initial help from the Catholic socialists but then left to public assistance. They are not assimilating well (no jobs for the locals, much less for refugees who don't speak...Spanish). I'm told they use primitive methods to kill wild geese in suburban neighborhoods and catch fish from neighborhood ponds and eat them raw.
The situation reminds me of the St. Louis housing project, Pruitt-Igoe, and the end result will likely be similar. Relocating refugees to cultures and environments that are far different from what they are used to creates trouble for the "host" cities which are already in dire straits.