They call it the “Peaceful Gathering and Procession Bill,” that is the bill that, for the first time in half a century, will allow the staging of peaceful gatherings and marches, a huge step forward for the people of Burma. It was recently approved by the Parliament of Naypyidaw, the new capital city of the Southeast Asian country which has been ruled by a succession of oppressive military juntas since 1962.
Unfortunately though, the President’s signature is still missing, not to mention that the bill contains a number of restrictions: it will be necessary to ask for authorization at least one week in advance, it will be necessary to present detailed identification of the organizers while it will not be possible to demonstrate near government buildings, schools, hospitals and embassies.
However, it couldn’t be denied that there have been encouraging signs of change, including a partial liberalization of the Internet. But the point is whether those “flickers of progress,” as President Obama calls them, are enough to justify U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s three-day trip to Burma that starts next week. In other words, have the generals and former generals who run Burma done enough to earn such validation? Someone might have doubts about that, including me.