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Is Myanmar about to rejoin the world?

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"Essential power will remain with the military, and they will play a central role for the foreseeable future," says David Steinberg, a professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and doyen of American Myanmar scholars. "I don't think Aung San Suu Kyi will be able to change that."

But the government will no longer be able to treat her as a "nonperson," nor does it want to ignore her any longer; it needs her to play an active role because Western governments will listen primarily to her advice as they consider lifting sanctions.

Aung San Suu Kyi needs the military, too, given its central role in modern Burmese history and its reluctance to return completely to the barracks. "It is particularly important that the military should be behind our reform process," she said just before the elections. "We hope to win the military over to understand that we have to work together."

Curiously, given her bitter experience at the hands of the previous military junta, she may be just the person to rally her former jailers.

Saintly reputation with authoritarian streak

Aung San Suu Kyi is an accidental politician, though she has honed her skills – and her meditation technique – even during long periods of house arrest in her family home, set amid spreading lawns on a small lake in central Yangon.

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