NEW DELHI -- Some 20 political prisoners were released in Myanmar on Friday, just days before a a historic summit between the country's leader and President Obama in Washington, officials and prisoner rights groups said.
President Thein Sein will be the first leader of Myanmar to visit Washington since 1966. In November, Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Myanmar.
Zaw Htay, a senior official in Thein Sein's office, said on social media that the prisoner release was not timed to next week's visit but instead showed that the president was determined to offer an “inclusive political process."
It follows a similar pardon of prisoners last month, a day after the European Union agreed to halt most economic sanctions against Myanmar.
Since coming to power, Thein Sein's government has eased media controls, allowed Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to run for political office and released hundreds of political prisoners.
Human rights groups said the nation’s leadership still had not gone far enough, noting that the military retained overall control of the country.
ALSO:Boat capsizes off Myanmar; dozens feared dead