BANGKOK -- President Barack Obama is set to become the first U.S. president to visit Myanmar.
The nation has been making a gradual transition toward democracy after years of international isolation over its human rights record. While Myanmar has undertaken significant reforms, hundreds of political prisoners are still detained and ethnic violence has displaced more than 100,000 people.
In Thailand today, Obama tried to assure critics that his visit is not a premature reward. He told a news conference the trip is not an endorsement of the government but an acknowledgement of a process that few saw coming.
The president says his goals are to highlight the steps the Asian nation still needs to take and to congratulate the people of Myanmar for having "opened the door" to being a country that respects human rights and political freedom.
Obama spoke Sunday during a news conference with Thailand's prime minister.
Meanwhile, Myanmar's leader today ordered a new prisoner amnesty ahead Obama's. State television says 66 prisoners will be released, but it's not clear whether any of them are political prisoners.
President Thein Sein announced an amnesty for 452 prisoners just three days ago, but the move angered activists because it failed to include prisoners of conscience.