Obama praises release of political prisoners in Myanmar

Obama praises release of political prisoners in Myanmar Washington: US President Barack Obama on Friday praised the release of political prisoners in Myanmar, terming it substantial step forward for democratic reform.

"President Thein Sein's decision to release hundreds of prisoners of conscience is a substantial step forward for democratic reform," Obama said in a statement.

Obama also welcomed the ceasefire agreement reached between the Karen National Union and the government.

"Today, I applaud President Thein Seins’s decision to release hundreds of prisoners of conscience, which is a crucial step in Burma’s democratic transformation and national reconciliation process, he said.

"I?m pleased that Aung San Suu Kyi has welcomed this step as she continues to pursue a dialogue with the government," Obama said.

The president urged the government to ensure that these and all other former political prisoners are allowed to participate fully and freely in the political process, particularly the upcoming by-elections, and to free all remaining prisoners of conscience.

Obama had spoken to Suu Kyi over telephone when he had visited Indonesia two months ago.

"In Indonesia, I spoke about the flickers of progress that were emerging in Burma. Today, that light burns a bit brighter, as prisoners are reunited with their families and people can see a democratic path forward," he said.

Even as he said "much more remains to be done to meet the aspirations" of the people in Myanmar, he said "the United States is committed to continuing our engagement with the government in Nay Pyi Taw."

Obama said he has directed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to take additional steps to build confidence with the government and people of Myanmar so that "we seize this historic and hopeful opportunity".

Obama said two months ago, he spoke with Aung San Suu Kyi and President Thein Sein about how America?s engagement can help empower democratic reform, and improve relations between our countries.

"Shortly afterwards, Clinton became the first US Secretary of State to travel to Burma in over half a century.

In her meetings in Nay Pyi Taw and Rangoon, she discussed with President Sein and other leaders the steps that would advance a new beginning between our countries.

A key part of that discussion was the need to unconditionally release prisoners of conscience and allow them to participate fully in public and political life," he underlined.