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Is the recent political thaw in Myanmar genuine? Democratic elections are coming to the long-reclusive southeast Asian nation of Myanmar, formerly Burma. A long military dictatorship has nominally ended, and the regime has signed peace treaties with several ethnic separatist insurgencies. Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's long house arrest is over, and she is campaigning for a seat in Parliament in the upcoming April 1 vote. Western investment is beginning to mass, which may ultimately be the reason the country is finally opening its doors. Other speculation on the thaw points to the incompetent emergency response to Cyclone Nargis in 2008, which left as many as 140,000 dead and sowed deep dissatisfaction with the government. Whatever the reasons for the unprecedented opening, the isolated and impoverished Burmese people are eager to reconnect with and catch their more developed neighbors in ASEAN, the Association of South East Asian Nations. While it's impossible to represent every corner of any nation, collected here are images from the last couple of months in Myanmar, a nation of 55 million. -- Lane Turner (41 photos total)
A child waits for the arrival of Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Pyar Pon in the Irrawaddy Delta region on February 17, 2012. She wears thanaka on her face, a paste made from wood bark popularly used as both a beauty cosmetic and protection from the sun. (Soe Than Win/AFP/Getty Images)

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