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Is Myanmar about to rejoin the world?

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In a country where individual leaders have always been more important than institutions, it is perhaps inevitable that the political process now under way should be based on a personal accommodation between two leaders – Aung San Suu Kyi and President Thein Sein, who persuaded her at their meeting last August to run for election.

But "that is very fragile," warns Steinberg. "Things have to move beyond these two people."

Aung San Suu Kyi may be the face of the opposition, indeed the face of Myanmar, to the outside world. "But hers is not the only voice," says Hla Hla Win, a researcher with Egress, a leading educational nongovernmental organization in Yangon. "Civil society leaders are taking new roles, and helping get people's voices heard."

Many other political voices

The voices that Moe Naing wants the world to hear are not obviously political; they are the voices of the a cappella choir he has formed at the Gitameit Music Center. The school is Myanmar's first such venture, housed in a rambling old hardwood-floored home in northwestern Yangon now ringing with the joyous cacophony of students practicing piano, guitar, and cello, and singing in small, poorly soundproofed rooms.

But there is a subtle political component to what Mr. Moe Naing is doing when he directs the choir, which all students must join. And that's what makes his music school more than just a place to learn music, turning it into another small brick in the growing edifice of Myanmar's growing civil society.

"There's a lot of meaning in music," says the former keyboards session musician, sitting in his office in front of a wall-to-wall gilded bas-relief representing Buddha. "Singing choir is working together. We can improve our unity and develop our sharing of ideas. There is a lot more result than just music, and it is thrilling to see this development."

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