October 13, 2011

BABY STEPS:

Making amends: Myanmar govt takes first hesitant steps: In an attempt to rectify the anti-democratic policies and human rights violations of the past by the military junta that ruled the country for 23 years till a few months ago, the government of President Thein Sein has started releasing political prisoners who were languishing in jail under the military dictatorship for many years from October 12 (B Raman, 10/13/11, rediff)

The seemingly civilian government, which consists of many military members of the previous junta who had discarded their uniforms and projected themselves as civilian political leaders, started giving indications of new thinking on the road ahead for Myanmar.

Two indicators of the new thinking were reports that the government seemed keen to find ways of associating Suu Kyi with the new dispensation without letting her get into the driving seat of power, and the decision to suspend the construction of a huge hydel project by a Chinese company in the Northern Kachin State because of strong opposition to the project.

The significant  decision to suspend the Chinese-driven project, which would have benefited the Yunan province of China more than the Kachin state of Myanmar, gave cause for hope that Chinese interests, which played an important role in influencing the decisions and policies of the military junta, may no longer play the same role under the new government  .

Will the winds of change affect positively not only the political and economic landscape of Myanmar, but also its future diplomacy? That was a question that increasingly excited analysts.

In the context of these developments, it was, therefore, no wonder that in remarks made in Bangkok on October 10, Kurt Campbell, US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, hailed the recent developments in Myanmar, including what he described as "very consequential dialogue" between Suu Kyi and the leadership.

Campbell, one of the many US officials to hold rare talks with Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin in Washington recently, added that while concerns remained, "it is also undeniably the case that there are dramatic developments under way".

Against this background, the release of the first batch of political prisoners by the government on October 12 was less daring and more hesitant. 

Posted by at October 13, 2011 6:58 AM
  

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