President Obama is looking to reward the historically repressive country sometimes called Burma, other times called Myanmar for liberalizing ever so slightly this past year, reports the AP and The New York Times. Hillary Clinton will give an official diplomat visit to the nation, the first from the U.S. in over 50 years. "For decades Americans have been deeply concerned about the denial of basic human rights for the Burmese people," Mr. Obama said in Indonesia today, according to The Times. "The persecution of democratic reformers, the brutality shown toward ethnic minorities and the concentration of power in the hands of a few military leaders has challenged our conscience and isolated Burma from the United States and much of the world." So why send an American diplomat to such as depressingly authoritarian country now? "Flickers of progress in these last several weeks," says Obama. The Times spells out these flickers:
Myanmar inaugurated a new civilian system this year after decades of military rule. The new government, led by a former general, Thein Sein, has freed a number of political prisoners, taken steps to liberalize the nation’s heavily state-controlled economy and made overtures to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel laureate who was released from house arrest last year.
However, with that carrot comes a stick. "We're not making any abrupt changes," said Clinton, according to the AP, with the Obama administration saying the sanctions it placed against the country will still be in effect. Clinton will be making the trip next month, so in the meantime, expect a round of media gabber about the whole Burma/Myanmar name ambiguity. (For the flummoxed: the BBC offers a nice explanation on why no one can agree on the country's name.)