The Obama administration and some members of Congress are praising the Myanmar government’s release of political prisoners “as further indication of progress and commitment.” Secretary of State Clinton described the occasion as a “momentous day” for the people of Burma.
So how much progress has the military regime actually made by releasing a total of 651 political prisoners? Yes, families are glad to see their loved ones after all these years (some have been held since the political uprising in 1988). But did you know that the sentences of most of those released were suspended, not fully pardoned?
Their crimes still remain on the books and they can be re-arrested and imprisoned at any time. Their actions and speech will be monitored closely by secret police.
Also, did you know that more political prisoners remain incarcerated now (estimated at about 1,000) than were imprisoned five years ago at this time?
Progress? Yes. A step forward? No.
Many Burmese doubt the sincerity of this regime because they’ve seen this before—a few positive actions that resemble progress toward democracy, and then the hammer falls like it did against the Buddhist monks when they rallied in 2007.
Some Burmese think the United States may be moving a bit too fast by normalizing relations. An exchange of ambassadors will happen soon and a U.S. business delegation is expected to visit next month.
Will President Obama or Congress put the brakes on the rush to normalize and then lift sanctions? Congress seems to be on board with the president. There's a lot of money to be made in Burma.
The following video includes comments made by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell during his meeting Monday with Nobel Peace Prize winner, pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.