Myanmar promises to free all political prisoners


Myanmar state media said Monday that President Thein Sein will make a historic visit to the US this month. He will be the first Myanmar leader to visit since 1966.


Nicolas Asfouri

Myanmar President Thein Sein promised on Monday to free all political prisoners by the end of the year and said he thought a nationwide ceasefire was possible in the coming weeks.

"By the end of the year there will be no prisoners of conscience in Myanmar," Sein said during a speech in London after holding talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

He also noted that a special committee was reviewing every political prisoner's case.

Myanmar has freed hundreds political detainees since Sein became president in March 2010. Prior to his taking power, the country, also known as Burma, barely acknowledged the existence of the prisoners. Their release is part of Myanmar's ongoing political reform.

More from GlobalPost: A Burmese Journey

Activists have protested Sein's two-day visit to the United Kingdom due to Myanmar's poor human rights record. About 30 protesters from campaign group Avaaz held a demonstration outside the UK parliament with a banner that said: "Cameron — Don't let Burma become the next Rwanda," referring to the 1994 genocide that killed hundreds of thousands in the African country.

Myanmar's Rohingya Organization UK and Human Rights Watch have also urged Cameron to discuss the country's human rights record with Sein.

Sein previously said in a statement released on his website on Sunday that he had disbanded a security force accused of violating the rights of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State, which has seen deadly violence between Muslims and majority Buddhists in the past year.