UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] on Thursday welcomed [statement] the release of approximately 200 political prisoners by Myanmar's president, while urging the government to release all political prisoners [UN News Centre report] in accordance with the rule of law. Ban Ki-moon also acknowledged the dialogue between the government and pro-democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], as well as talks between the authorities and ethnic groups in an effort to bring stability and address the challenges currently facing the country. Some of the prisoners released have been addressed by the Special Rapporteur in the past. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) (AAPPB) [advocacy website] on Thursday claimed that Myanmar's announcement is merely an attempt to appease the international community [press release]. Despite an announcement on October 11 that Myanmar would release 6,359 prisoners, no further information about the actual number of prisoners that will be released has been publicized. According to the AAPPB, the timing of the Myanmar government's announcement coincides with other concerns, signifying that the release of prisoners is just an attempt by the government to ease international tension. AAPPB said that the prisoner release is not satisfactory
On Tuesday, US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell indicated that Myanmar's civilian-led government was planning dramatic changes including releasing hundreds of political prisoners [JURIST report] and consequential dialogue with Suu Kyi. Myanmar has sought to improve its international reputation following a transfer of power from a military regime to a civil system in March after holding its first elections in 20 years. Last month, Myanmar's government formed the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) [JURIST report] to promote and safeguard the country's constitutional rights. In August, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Tomas Ojea Quintana urged the government of Myanmar to investigate human rights abuses [JURIST report] and improve its rights record. In May, Myanmar began releasing as many as 15,000 prisoners [JURIST report] as part of an amnesty program after a visit from a special envoy from the UN secretary-general, but rights groups claim the government has not gone far enough.