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Myanmar frees political prisoners while welcoming Obama

The government of Myanmar [JURIST news archive] on Monday began releasing a number of political prisoners at the same time US President Barack Obama [official website] arrived for a historic visit to the former dictatorship. Specifically, 66 prisoners were to be freed [Reuters report] in conjunction with the first trip to the country made by any sitting US president. While two-thirds of the prisoners were merely political dissidents, the remaining third was supposedly composed of former military intelligence personnel. The prisoners' release comes less than a week after Myanmar announced that it had freed 452 others [JURIST report] on humanitarian grounds and as a goodwill gesture by the nation.

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 in August, HRW accused Myanmar security forces of human rights abuses [JURIST report] against a minority religious community. In July, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] also expressed concern [JURIST report] about both the continued violence in Myanmar and the country's human rights abuses committed in dealing with it.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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