Burma: from life sentence to freedom in one week

General Mutu Saipo (C), a representative of the rebel Karen National Union (KNU) toasting with Myanmar Railway Minister Aung Min (2nd L), Industry Minister Soe Thein (2nd R) and Immigration Minister Khin Yee (R) during a welcoming dinner held on the eve of talks between KNU leaders and a Myanmar government delegation, on Jan. 11, 2012 in Hpa-An, the main city of the country's eastern Karen state.</p>

General Mutu Saipo (C), a representative of the rebel Karen National Union (KNU) toasting with Myanmar Railway Minister Aung Min (2nd L), Industry Minister Soe Thein (2nd R) and Immigration Minister Khin Yee (R) during a welcoming dinner held on the eve of talks between KNU leaders and a Myanmar government delegation, on Jan. 11, 2012 in Hpa-An, the main city of the country's eastern Karen state.

Since Myanmar's government is attempting to end its decades-old conflicts, I wrote last week, it seemed counter-productive that authorities recently sentenced a key rebel leader to life in prison.

Turns out the man charged with "high treason" -- a senior leader named Nyein Maung with the armed Karen ethnic group -- is already free under a presidential decree, according to the AP.

In last week's post, I reasoned that the leader's immediate release "would posit the leader of Burma's reform bonanza -- President Thein Sein -- as a compassionate voice of reason and perhaps help nudge the negotiations forward. It's a good cop, bad cop routine."

It will be interesting to see if this judicial about-face nudges forward peace talks to end the world's longest-running civil war.