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Burma goes to great lengths to shake sanctions

The cease-fire with the Karen rebels is the latest in Burma's push to be rid of economic sanctions.
Burma economic sanctions 2012 01 12Enlarge
Representative of the rebel Karen National Union (KNU) Saw Jawni - Johnny - (left) and a Burma government official (right) exchange documents following cease-fire talks in Hpa-an, the main city of the country's eastern Karen state on Jan. 12, 2012. (Soe Than Win/AFP/Getty Images)

An end to the world's longest running civil war — it certainly sounds big. 

And it could be, assuming the peace lasts and everyone's true to their word.

Today's news: Burma's government announced that they had reached a cease-fire with the Karen rebels, a mostly Christian ethnic group that makes up about 7 percent of the total Burmese population. A guerilla army of Karens has been fighting for independence from Burma since 1949. 

A little background: In World War II, many Karen fought alongside the British army against the invading Japanese. The 7 million Karen were promised their own state by the British but when independence came in 1948 the promise was forgotten. A year later, in January 1949, the Karen began the armed struggle that has continued ever since. 

More from GlobalPost: Burma reaches cease-fire with rebels

It's important to note that there is good reason to be skeptical — a written agreement ending hostilities is a far cry from laws protecting Karens' rights, for instance. And another ethnic group, the Kachin, is still fighting, despite an agreement with the government.

But still, at least on the surface, it is a momentous occasion.

And that's exactly what Burma wants you to think. The government seems to be collecting such momentous occasions these days, all in the name of getting rid of sanctions. 

More from GlobalPost: Inside the world's longest-running civil war

Peace with ethnic minorities, most of whom signed cease-fires with the government in the '60s, was one of the West's conditions for improved relations.

So was elections (check) and a prisoner release (coming soon). Burmese state TV announced a huge prisoner release of 651 inmates on Friday.

In addition, Burma said earlier this month that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party could contest elections, which were widely acknowledged as rigged, and Suu Kyi later announced she herself would be run for a seat in parliament.

Reforms do appear to be happening at quite a clip. It's enough to paint the rosiest of pictures. 

So, about those sanctions?

We'll have to wait until April for that installment of the unfolding drama. That's when the EU council is to consider their decision.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/the-rice-bowl/burma-myanmar-economic-sanctions-karen-resistance