Myanmar\’s president pardoned 56 political prisoners Tuesday, an amnesty apparently timed to highlight the government\’s reforms ahead of a regional summit as well as important negotiations with a rebel group at home.
The identities of those pardoned were not immediately released, but government officials say they included several ethnic minority separatists.
Dozens of political prisoners are still thought to be jailed in the formerly military ruled country, which has undergone a series of dramatic reforms.
During a visit to London in July, President Thein Sein promised to free all of the country\’s political prisoners by the end of the year.
Critics have called on him to release the prisoners immediately, saying they are being used as political bargaining chips with the West.
The latest pardon came on the same day the Burmese leader headed to Brunei for a meeting of regional and international leaders.
The arbitrary jailing of political opponents was a hallmark of Burma\’s military rulers, which handed power to a nominally civilian government in 2011.
Since then, hundreds of political prisoners have been released, media censorship has been loosened and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was allowed to successfully run for parliament.
The reforms have won praise from Western governments, many of which have loosened decades-old economic sanctions against the Southeast Asian country.