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The enigma of Myanmar's new 'democratic' era

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Myanmar's National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives for the opening of the new parliament in Naypyitaw on Feb. 1.   © Reuters

Crowning a year of unprecedented change in Myanmar, the Feb. 1 launch of the country's new parliament -- the second since the end of outright military rule in early 2011 -- was the most potent symbol so far of an emerging new order. Few countries have undergone an extraordinary transition as rapidly as Myanmar, from decades of harsh, secretive military dictatorship to a functioning parliament and electoral system, increasingly vibrant democracy and open -- albeit flawed -- economy, all in five years.

     Serious problems remain, particularly over human rights and sectarian issues and a broken economic system. But the fact that Myanmar expatriates could watch the inaugural parliamentary session on Monday live on the internet spoke volumes about a country where internet access was virtually zero just five years ago. So, too, did the vibrant LGBT film festival taking place concurrently in Yangon -- in a country where homosexuality is still technically banned.

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