Myanmar announced this week it has convinced banks and international aid givers to make deals that clear away debts and open the country to potentially profitable business. Other countries will pay off billions of dollars owed to the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). In return, Myanmar effectively gets a clean rating and a new line of credit. The international agencies and foreign businesses get a massive new opportunity to invest in Myanmar.
It seems a sweet deal all around. But the backroom deals that led to Monday's surprise announcement were free of all accountability. The governments that finance aid loans and projects concluded the agreements in secret. The government of Myanmar, while basking in the praise of its public acceptance of some democratic reform, was not even asked about mass abuses of the past, some of which are continuing.
It has become popular to refer to Myanmar as if 60 years of military dictatorship ended at a pen stroke and a general election. There are the bad days of tyranny by the Myanmar military, and then there is the new time, when political prisoners are freed and an elected parliament meets. It would be nice if this simplistic view of Myanmar were true. Unfortunately, the new regime under President Thein Sein still has a long way to go before his reforms result in a democratic and accountable Myanmar.
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