Myanmar's Junta Promises Freedom for Thousands More

The decision of Myanmar's military regime to free 23 political prisoners out of more than 6,000 may very well be a baby step toward democratization, but it is undoubtedly a step the world is taking notice of.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

the release of the detainees on Feb. 21 but it added that the military junta said it would free a total of 6,313 prisoners.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed willingness to

to Myanmar "without preconditions" following

of the amnesty. He last visited the country in May.

"There are a broad range of issues which will be very beneficial for the Myanmar authorities to discuss with me during my visit, if that visit is realized," said Ban, who also indicated continued "unified support" for further talks specifically from his Group of Friends on Myanmar.

Ban likewise encouraged Myanmar to seize the moment to "send positive signals" to the world by releasing all political detainees, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and resuming dialogue with the country's political opposition.

The United States also took note of the development. While the White House welcomed the amnesty, State Department spokesman Robert Wood stressed this was not enough.

"Obviously, the release of any political prisoners is something that we would welcome but a lot more needs to be done," he

.

The U.S. has strongly

the persecution of political activists who challenge the "illegitimate rule" of Myanmar's military regime, and as the world's largest contributor of development aid, its voice rings loud.

Just a few days before the release of the prisoners, Ban's special envoy Ibrahim Gambari said his recent visit did not yield concrete results though they may be "some movement in that direction."

Asian parliamentarians and political leaders

Ban last year urging him to secure the release of political prisoners before 2008 came to a close. A bigger global community keenly watches developments in Myanmar's human rights situation as well.

The international community certainly awaits the military regime's next move – and whether it would mean freedom for thousands finally.

About the author

  • Josefa Cagoco

    Sef Cagoco served as one of Devex's international development correspondent from mid-2008 to mid-2009. Her writing focused on social entrepreneurship and multilateral agencies such as the U.N. and Asian Development Bank. She previously worked as senior reporter for the national daily BusinessWorld and a production journalist for the Financial Times.