Friday, November 18, 2011

Hopeful News from Burma

Burma is ruled by the world's weirdest military dictatorship. They have been isolated, oppressive, and just odd for decades.

The democracy movement in Burma is led by one of the world's great moral leaders, Aung San Suu Kyi. She was given the Nobel Peace Prize to recognize her party's work for peaceful change, and to encourage the military junta to let democracy happen. Her party did win elections in 1990, but the junta ignored them.

ASEAN, the development partnership of several Southeast Asian countries, is one of the few outside ties that the Burmese government has cared about. Burma was to have taken over the rotating chairmanship in 2006, but protests by the other governments made them decline.

Lately, the government seems to want to join the world. They released some political prisoners last month. They lifted a ban on "convicts" - former political prisoners such as Aung San Suu Kyi and most of her party's leadership - from participating in elections.

The thaw is so hopeful that the opposition has said it will try again to register as a party and take part in local elections, which it is expected to win. ASEAN, for its part, voted to allow Burma to accept the chairmanship when its turn comes again.

President Obama, who is at the ASEAN summit, announced that he will send Secretary of State Clinton to Burma to help encourage democracy and normalization.

And if, at the end of this long process, President Aung San Suu Kyi says that the country really should be called Myanmar, as the military government named it, I, for one, will accept that Burma has really been freed.

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