Burmese President Thein Sein has committed to releasing all political prisoners by the end of the year. President Sein made these remarks at an official meeting with UK Prime Minister David Cameron. If President Sein follows through on his words, it would mark an important turning point for Myanmar and could lead to even greater economic integration and foreign direct investment from the rest of the world.

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Burmese government released prisoners

The Burmese government has already released hundreds of political prisoners as the country continues to shift from its authoritarian ruling government and into a modern Democracy. A special committee has been established to review the case files of every political prisoner in the country. A prisoner may still be left behind bars on the basis of other crimes, but the Burmese government has committed to ensuring that there are no “prisoners of conscious” by the years end.

While political and trade relations between Myanmar and the United States have begun to normalize, the U.S. Treasury department still maintains some sanctions against the country. These restrictions have discouraged investments by American and international companies and are likely hampering the country’s economic development.

US raised the imprisonment of political dissidents

One of the key issues the United States has repeatedly raised is the imprisonment of political dissidents. President Sein’s moves will be met warmly in Washington and may result in the lifting of sanctions and investment regulations. This could spur increased investments as the last economic sanctions against Myanmar are lifted.

These moves come at a key time for Myanmar. Despite surviving for years underneath the umbrella of the Chinese government to its north, the country is showing an increasing propensity towards working with the West. Myanmar seems to have come to the conclusion that remaining overly reliant on the Chinese government will be detrimental to the nation in the long run and is now taking steps to diversify its economy and political relations

At the same time the United States is still trying to figure out how to properly deal with and buttress against Chinese economic, political, and military aggression in Asia. Winning over nations such as Myanmar could help the American government build momentum in the region and hold China in check.  Such soft power will likely become more essential in the future as the United States continues to scale down its military and reposition itself in a multi-polar world.

Myanmar in strong position

Myanmar is now in a strong position to become a leading example to still isolated nations, such as Iran, Venezuela, and even North Korea. FDI in Myanmar has jumped five fold in recent months and McKinsey predicts that FDI totals could top $100 billion by 2030. Economic growth has also been growing and had reached a respectable 6.3 percent. As conditions continue to normalize, Myanmar will likely enjoy even stronger growth and more FDI. This could set a powerful example for other nations that are less engaged in the world economy. By cooperating with the rest of the world, Myanmar is becoming the primary beneficiary and other nations may come to believe that they too could benefit from increased economic integration.

Eithey way, the move to free all political prisoners offers credibility to Myanmar’s reform efforts. While some were skeptical as to whether the country would actually hold the course, recent actions suggest that the government is very serious about reform. For a nation so rich in natural resources, this could eventually usher in an era of increased prosperity.