President Barack Obama says his historic visit to Myanmar marks the next step in a new chapter between the two countries.

President Barack Obama meets with Burmese President U Thein Sein (R) at Yangon Regional Parliament (Kaung Htet/Getty Images)

Speaking after a private meeting with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi , Obama said he's seen encouraging signs of progress in the country in the past year. Those signs, he said, include Suu Kyi's release from house arrest and her election to parliament.

Long shunned because of a repressive military rule, a transition to democracy began last year after a nominally civilian government took office and began taking steps toward democracy.

Obama says ties between the U.S. and Myanmar will grow stronger if the moves toward democracy continue.

He is the first sitting U.S. president to visit Myanmar, which also is known as Burma.


Myanmar frees political prisoners in new amnesty

Myanmar has set free dozens of political prisoners around the country in an amnesty that coincides with the visit of President Barack Obama.

At least 44 political prisoners were among 66 detainees released today, including several prominent human rights activists, said former prisoner of conscience Soe Tun.

The amnesty order was announced by state television Sunday. It was the second this week and the latest in a string of prisoner releases since the reformist government of President Thein Sein took office last year.

Myanmar's government has long insisted that all prisoners are criminals and does not acknowledge the existence of political detainees.

However, Thein Sein's administration has made freedom for political prisoners one of the centerpieces of its reform agenda.

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