Still reeling from the effects of the cyclone this Spring, rats and all, Myanmar's junta has released 9,002 prisoners in a gesture they say is full of "loving kindness and goodwill," despite the fact that many doubt political prisoners will be in those numbers. One exception, Myanmar's longest serving political prisoner, Win Tin, who has been held since 1989. The 78-year-old spoke following his release from a friend's house saying, "I have to continue with my unfinished task of trying to achieve democracy in Myanmar."
Oddly, that very "democracy" seems to have sparked the release of the 9,002 prisoners as the junta, who have ruled uncontested since 1962, say they released them in order to take part in elections set for 2010 as part of their seven-step "roadmap to democracy." Skepticism on that roadmap, abounds, and that it's nothing but a charade set to cement the military's power.
That military power just earned the country a dubious honor, and a big donation from Brad Pitt. To see what they won,
Myanmar has just claimed the penultimate spot on the new list of most corrupt countries, barely edging out Somalia (the bottom) and tying with Iraq. Transparency International released the new Global Corruption Report, showing that Myanmar has become even more corrupt than it was last year. The spokesperson for TI says it's not just bad behavior, corruption can be fatal, “In the poorest countries, corruption levels can mean the difference between life and death, when money for hospitals or clean water is in play.”
Understanding that need, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have donated $1 million to the charity Human Rights Watch, earmarked for work in Myanmar and Zimbabwe. The executive director of HRW said, "Burma and Zimbabwe are two of the most repressive countries in the world and we need to increase international pressure on them to change. Brad and Angelina's investment in our work at this critical moment will allow intensified efforts by our researchers to expose the repression that these governments try to keep hidden and by our advocates to generate the global pressure needed to improve people's lives." Earlier this month, the couple gave $2 million to fund a children's home in Ethiopia.
Do you believe the release of the 9,002 prisoners is a step toward democracy?