RANGOON- Myanmar is set to free 452 prisoners in a goodwill gesture ahead of President Obama’s visit next week. This comes as the latest in a series of reforms implemented by President Thein Sein over the past 18 months after nearly 50 years of repressive army rule.

Reuters reports that former political prisoner, Nobel laureate and head of the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi, had received no information that any detainees released were political prisoners. Similarly, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) had not heard of any among those released by mid-afternoon Thursday.

[Photo: White House]

Obama’s visit will be the first to Myanmar, also known as Burma, by a sitting president as he seeks to forge links and promote the U.S. on his November 17-20 visit. He will also travel to Thailand and Cambodia on his Southeast Asia trip.

Burma Campaign UK believes that the prisoner release is a manipulative way to propel the country into the spotlight just before a key international moment. The independent Burmese magazine Irrawaddy reports that prominent activist and former detainee Ko Ko Gyi echoed the criticism of activist groups saying that “The release of prisoners of conscience should not be used as a bargaining chip”.

According to Yahoo news, Samantha Power, a top Obama advisor, has signaled that the U.S. President will use the talks to put pressure on the civilian government to do more on human rights for its people.