Obama says 'no excuse for violence' in west Myanmar
YANGON - Agence France-Presse
AP photoUS President Barack Obama used a historic speech in Myanmar today to urge an end to sectarian unrest in the western state of Rakhine, saying there was "no excuse for violence against innocent people".
"National reconciliation will take time, but for the sake of our common humanity, and for the sake of this country's future, it is necessary to stop the incitement and to stop violence," he added.
Two major outbreaks of violence since June between Muslims and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists in the state have left 180 people dead and more than 110,000 displaced.
Most of those who fled their homes were stateless Rohingya Muslims, who have faced decades of discrimination.
"Today, we look at the recent violence in Rakhine state that has caused so much suffering, and we see the danger of continued tensions there," Obama said in his address at Yangon University.
"For too long, the people of this state, including ethnic Rakhine, have faced crushing poverty and persecution. But there's no excuse for violence against innocent people, and the Rohingya hold within themselves the same dignity as you do, and I do," he added.
Myanmar's reformist government is under pressure to give citizenship to the Rohingya as it comes under international scrutiny, with warnings that the conflict threatens its democratic transition.
Dozens of political prisoners freed in Myanmar as Obama visits: activist
Myanmar released dozens of political prisoners Monday in an amnesty coinciding with a landmark visit by US President Barack Obama, a pro-democracy activist told AFP.
Soe Tun, a leader of the 88 Generation student movement, said 44 political prisoners were released on Monday, and called for "all political prisoners" to be freed.
The pardon was confirmed by a senior member of Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy party, who said 56 dissidents had been freed since Sunday, among them four NLD members.
Estimates vary of the number of political detainees. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a Thailand-based campaign group, put the figure at 283 last month, before Monday's amnesty.
Myanmar has come under intense pressure to free scores of dissidents believed to be languishing inside its jails, with the international community calling for their freedom in return for warming relations with the former pariah state.
On Sunday Myanmar said it would review prisoner cases in line with "international standards" and open its jails to the Red Cross, as part of efforts to burnish its reform credentials.
In a statement issued on the eve of Obama's visit, the Myanmar government also said it would invite the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish an office in the former army-ruled nation.