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Is Myanmar about to rejoin the world?

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"If the NLD was a soccer team, it would be one without a midfield and without fullbacks," says Khin Zaw Win, a former political prisoner who now works as a community activist. "They just have one lone striker."

That suggests that even should the NLD score the kind of victory at general elections due in 2015 that it won on April 1, some sort of ruling coalition with the military and the USDP might be the only viable outcome.

"All we've done in the opposition is sit in prison," laments Mr. Myo Nan Naung Thein. "We've read books, but we have been far away from power. If power was handed instantly to the NLD it would be a disaster."

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.

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