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Myanmar-United States Relations: Ambassadors To Be Exchanged Following Prisoner Release

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on January 13, 2012

WASHINGTON, Jan 13 (Reuters) – The United States said on Friday it was ready to exchange ambassadors with Myanmar as President Barack Obama welcomed the release of 200 political prisoners as a “substantial step forward for democratic reform” in the Southeast Asian country.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington was ready to begin the process of exchanging full ambassadors after an absence of two decades, and would consider additional measures if the new civilian-led government’s reforms continue.

“Much more remains to be done to meet the aspirations of the Burmese people, but the United States is committed to continuing our engagement,” Obama said in a statement.

The U.S. move followed Myanmar’s announcement that it was freeing some 200 political prisoners in an amnesty in the latest sign of change in a country that has spent half a century under authoritarian rule.

The United States downgraded its diplomatic representation in Myanmar to charge d’affaires following a military coup in 1988 and a violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests in the country, formerly known as Burma.

The United States and other western nations have also imposed a series of broad economic sanctions, which analysts say have crippled the country’s economy and driven it deeper into the embrace of regional power China.

Myanmar held elections last March which saw a nominally civilian government — although still heavily weighted toward the military — take over from the ruling junta. Read the rest of this entry »

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