Image In 1962, a military government came to power in Burma (now known as Myanmar) promising to end the “chaos” plaguing the country and then return power to a civilian government. It has never given up power until recently. A military-backed civilian government was elected in 2011 and has led the way to democratization and reform.

Despite true power remaining in the hands of the State Peace and Development Council, the official name of the military junta that governs the country, the ruling generals have done little to stop the process, even going so far as to freeing political prisoners and allowing pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi to run in the coming elections due to be held on 1 April 2012.

This is a welcome change coming out of Myanmar, which gained pariah status long ago in the government’s numerous brutal crackdowns on protests throughout the years, most recently the crackdown against the Saffron Revolution of 2007. It must be sincere, as the United States, among other powers, have begun to renormalize relations with the government of Myanmar. Sanctions have also been lifted and Director of Central Intelligence David Petraeus has even hinted at his intentions to visit Myanmar within the year.

Amid the violence, destruction, repression, and horror occurring throughout the world, the peaceful transition to democratic rule in Myanmar is a welcome relief from the norm in repressive countries. Bashar al-Assad of Syria could learn from this as how to listen to the grievances of your people and address them in a manner not involving the slaughter of thousands.

The S.P.D.C. must atone for its past crimes. Allowing democracy to take hold in Myanmar is a step in the right direction and a step toward forgiveness. I hope and pray the peaceful transition continues to be an example of how to emerge from an autocratic government to a democratic state.

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