VOA Burmese Blog

January 19, 2012

Burma Gains New Friends

Burma, a country that has been under a rigid military dictatorship for nearly five decades is seemingly on the road to reform. With Western leaders coming in to the country, from US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton to French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppe, Burma’s old foes are looking more like new comrades.

The government recently released 200 political prisoners as part of an amnesty that aligns with the demands that Hillary Clinton made on her trip to Burma. U.S. President Barack Obama says that Burma’s latest action is, “ a substantial step forward for democratic reform”, and the Obama administration responded by saying that it is taking progressive steps to send an Ambassador to Burma.

With news of Burma’s amnesty, Norway also released a statement on the decision that it will lift trade and investment sanctions imposed on the country. A long time critic of the military junta, US Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, visited Burma recently and said that due to country’s steps toward reform, the US may be open for more engagement in the country. McConnell cosponsored the economic sanction against the country, and reminds that the government has to keep its efforts in ending political repression and ethnic persecution.

The Burmese government also made other reforms, ending the world’s longest running civil war. The government signed a cease-fire agreement with the ethnic rebel group, the Karen National Union. The KNU has been fighting for autonomy for over 60 years. However, analysts of Burma are skeptical of the peace agreement, stating that a true end to the conflict will not solidify soon enough.

Although the West has applauded Burma for its reform efforts, critics are skeptical of the country’s intentions, saying that a lot more has to be done in the nation. For now Burma, with its new reform measures – such as granting amnesty, signing the peace agreement with ethnic rebels, giving Internet access and legalizing the main opposition party -is gaining new friends.

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