Conflicting signals on reform in Burma (Myanmar)
Aung San Suu Kyi is cautiously optimistic about the future of Burma (Myanmar) as the government approved her party to run in upcoming by-elections.
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Aung Myo Thein of the AAPP says that “reform is so-called reform,” citing a prisoner amnesty earlier this week, when only about 34 political detainees were freed – after already serving much of their jail time.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Aung San Suu Kyi
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The US has said that full and unconditional release of political prisoners is a necessity before it will consider lifting economic sanctions on Burma.
Aside from political prisoners, conditions in Burma's ethnic minority regions are another litmus test of the government's reformist intentions.
Benedict Rogers, activist and author of a biography on Than Shwe, the reclusive former military dictator thought by some to retain behind-the-scenes influence in Burma, told the Monitor that the Burmese government should be encouraged to reform but added that “if the regime wants to convince us it is changing” there needs to be “an end to the attacks in the ethnic states, and a nationwide cease-fire must be announced.”
Far from Rangoon and Naypyidaw, such reform is hard to detect.
Zipporah Sein, head of the Karen National Union (KNU), says she fears that the approaching dry season will see a return to the bloody clashes between the Burmese Army and the ethnic Karen militia, which has strongholds near the Thailand-Burma border.
And as investors size up what they hope will be a reformed Burma, the KNU is taking its time on going ahead with a Thai-backed multibillion dollar port and highway development linking Burma's coast with Bangkok.
“We want the project to be done to international standards,” says Zipporah Sein, adding that they are still in discussion with Italian-Thai Development, the Thai company leading the project.
In Burma's northern Kachin state, near China, fighting has been running for seven or eight months now, with tens of thousands made homeless, according to Ah Noh, of the Kachin Women's Association of Thailand. In Kachin state, “we don't see any sign of change in the ground,” she says.
IN PICTURES: Aung San Suu Kyi
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