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US says Myanmar reforms 'incomplete'

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that Myanmar's dramatic political reforms were still "incomplete", a day after the former military-ruled country released dozens more political prisoners.

"I think what is happening in Myanmar is very exciting, but it is incomplete," Kerry said during a meeting with students in Brunei, where he was later set to meet Myanmar President Thein Sein at a regional summit.

"We have to see that the political transformation continues," he added. "Our hope is that the democracy will continue to evolve," Kerry added.

Myanmar on Tuesday freed around 56 political prisoners, following a vow from Thein Sein to release all "prisoners of conscience" by the end of the year.

Kerry will meet with the former general in Brunei to discuss the "next steps in ongoing political reforms in Myanmar," a US State Department official said.

He was also set to hold bilateral meetings in Brunei with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, and South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, according to the official.

Thein Sein, who took power in March 2011, has earned international plaudits and the removal of most western sanctions for reforms that include freeing hundreds of political prisoners detained under the former junta.

Relations between the US and Myanmar -- a long-time ally of China -- have improved markedly since the end of decades of harsh military rule.

US President Barack Obama made a historic visit to the fast-changing country in November 2012.

The Southeast Asian nation has undergone a series of reforms in recent years, including the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from long years of house arrest and her election to parliament in by-elections held last year.

But the military and its political allies remain in control of parliament while religious violence and the continued arrests of activists have tempered optimism about the political reforms.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131009/us-says-myanmar-reforms-incomplete