The military dicatorship in Myanmar announced this week that they are releasing almost 3,000 prisoners, including about 20 political prisoners.
Of course trade with the dictatorship, one of the most notorious human rights abusers in the world, remains forbidden. Myanmar (formerly called Burma) continues to periodically detain detain Nobel Prize winner Suu Kyi, who is actually (by reason of election) the legitimate President of the country.
The junta seized power after a bloody 1988 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators led by Suu Kyi. In 1990, junta refused to step down when Suu Kyi's party won a landslide election.
Why are they taking this step now? Well, you might recall that the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign was embarrassed by a story in which it turned out that the campaign itself had violated the boycott on Myanmar by outsourcing Bush-Cheney campaign wear to Myanmar. They apparently got around the boycott by having 'made in Burma' (the countries' old name) put on campaign gear bearing the Bush-Cheney '04 logo since the law now says that they couldn't trade with Myanmar. It would be like someone claiming they were respecting my marriage by sending romantic letters to my wife using her maiden name. But the Bush-Cheney campaign apparently thought that was OK (or more likely figured that if they did this nobody would catch them on it.) Considering that the Bush administration had invaded another country seeking to achieve 'regime change' by ousting a dictator, for them to buy campaign gear from (what is likely a sweatshop in) Myanmar is particularly hypocritical.
Remember too, that Myanmar is a country which because of the sanctions has missed out on the 'outsourcing' bonanza that has shipped millions of American jobs to other countries in Asia. So apparently they are now trying to improve their public image (though without ceding any actual control) in order to maybe get an encore from the GOP with the 2008 election season right around the corner.