U.S. and European Union encouraged by Burma's reforms

January 17, 2012

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(AP/Khin Maung Win)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell met with Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday to discuss the path ahead.

Britian’s Foreign Minister William Hauge, France's Minister of Foreign Affairs Alan Juppé, and U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell are the latest in a parade of political leaders to visit Burma since the government initiated a series of reforms.

After half a century of brutal military rule, the reforms are indeed unprecedented. The government of Burma, formerly known as Myanmar, recently signed a cease fire with a major rebel group. Burma also released 651 political prisoners, which prompted the U.S. to send an ambassador into the country, something which hasn't happened since 1988.

The next critical juncture for the Southeast Asian country comes this April, when Burma holds parliamentary elections. Democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent almost 15 years under house arrest, plans to run for office. Today, Burma’s capital is overflowing with Western businessmen anticipating the end of sanctions and the "opening" of the country.

Maureen Aung Thwin is director of the Open Society Foundation’s Burma Project. She tells Worldview what Burma's reform efforts  might mean for the country's 55 million people.