Following the release of hundreds of political prisoners in Burma, the US has reached out to reinstate diplomatic relations. In a speech given today by Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, as democratic processes are implemented in Burma, a ceasefire is considered between the government and the Karen National Union, and the civilian leadership gains more legitimacy, sanctions will be lifted and ambassadors exchanged between the two countries. There have not been diplomatic relations between the US and Burma since 1990 and Clinton is the first US Secretary of State to visit Burma in over fifty years. This will be a long and involved process, according to Clinton, but the exchange of diplomats bodes well for an involved future with Burma.
President Obama made a statement backing Secretary of State, Clinton’s remarks and reinforcing the commitment to Burmese democratic development. He declared that although, “much more remains to be done to meet the aspirations of the Burmese people…the United States is committed to continuing [its] engagement with the government in Nay Pyi Taw.” The forgiveness by Western governments may seem shocking in the face of such immediate openness after decades of harsh military rule, but I think it is important to re-establish these diplomatic relations in order to continue to monitor and influence regimes that have for many years completely dominated their civilian populations. The real test in my opinion is to see if the released protesters, once regrouped, will be able to continue to challenge the government. The by-elections that are scheduled for April this year will be another test of Burmese commitment to an open society.
Only time will truly tell if these changes are here to stay, or just a facade, but there are many developments that lead one to believe in a hopeful future for the Burmese people.