Myanmar Seeks New Dialogue, But Major Shift Unlikely

Myanmar allowed a U.N. human rights envoy to visit the country for the first time in more than a year this week, prompting reports that President Thein Sein may be seeking a new era of dialogue with the international community -- particularly those critical of the country's repeated bloody crackdowns on democracy advocates.

Western rights organizations and governments have long called for the release of more than 2,000 political prisoners in Myanmar, and, according to Renaud Egreteau, a political scientist and Myanmar specialist at the University of Hong Kong, "Thein Sein now aims to reconnect with regional players."

Egreteau, who reached Trend Lines by email this morning, cautioned that Thein Sein's "charm offensive" so far appears to resemble ones launched during the early 2000s by then-Prime Minister Khin Nyuent, who was subsequently sacked by the country's army hardliners. "We might witness a new phase of dialogue, mostly focused on socio-economic issues," he said, "as long as the fundamental role of the army and the people currently in power or at the backseat are not threatened by this new policy."

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