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U.S. & World Welcomes Myanmar’s Changes

January 16th, 2012

A freed political prisoner in Myanmar. Photo credit: Khin Maung Win/AP

For some time now, the United States has been considering re-starting its relationship with the small country of Myanmar (pronounced Mee-an-mahr). Others know the country as Burma.

On Friday, the U.S. took another step toward upgrading its relationship with Myanmar after its president, Mr. Thein Sein, released 651 prisoners held for political reasons, according to The New York Times .  Many of them had been held for decades. It was an incredible scene as the prisoners, including journalists and many who had spoken out against the longstanding military government, were reunited with their family members.

The release — possibly the country’s largest release of prisoners ever — is a step in the right direction. But Myanmar still has a lot of changes to make. There are reportedly hundreds more prisoners still behind bars in a country with one of the worst human rights records in the world, including where children are forced to work and where there is little freedom of speech.

In addition to the prisoners’ release, Myanmar has begun to show other signs of positive change recently.  The courageous Aung San Suu Kyi — who won a Nobel Peace prize for opposing the repressive government but spent 15 of the last 21 years under house arrest — has now announced she will run for a seat in an upcoming election in April.

It is because of these positive developments that the U.S. will make its relationship with Myanmar more official by designating an ambassador — a person who will represent the United States in its communications with the country.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Myanmar's pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi. Photo credit: US Government via Wikimedia Commons

But why does the U.S. care about a country few of us have even heard of before?

In addition to the living conditions of its people, Myanmar is neighbors with China and the U.S. is always trying to manage its complex relationship with China. China is one of the largest countries on the planet in terms of  population and one of the fastest growing in business activity. Any new relationship that the U.S. can forge in the neighborhood of China is seen by the U.S. government as potentially good. And more communication between all countries is good for the world.

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