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Burma to lead Southeast Asia?

Even Aung San Suu Kyi supports Burma chairing ASEAN in 2014
Burma asean 2011 11 17Enlarge
Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi greets supporters after her press conference on the anniversary of her release at the National League for Democracy (NLD) headquarters in Yangon on November 14, Myanmar. (SOE THAN WIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Southeast Asia's problem child -- Burma, officially known as Myanmar -- will given a chance to lead the region.

Symbolically, at least.

It would have been unimaginable just years ago. But Burma is set to chair the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations bloc in 2014. The announcement is forthcoming at an ASEAN meeting in Indonesia attended by U.S. President Barack Obama, according to Reuters.

Burma's military, which still holds sway over a ruling party stacked with ex-generals, has inflicted political repression, bizarre laws and civil war on Burma's population.

So just what is ASEAN thinking?

Indonesia's foreign minister explained to Reuters: "The decision that ASEAN is about to make is not a vote of confidence or a referendum on what Myanmar is like today. It is instead our expectation of how it will be in 2014."

Even Aung San Suu Kyi, a pro-democracy icon seen by many as Burma's rightful ruler, is behind the ASEAN bid, according to the Mail & Guardian Online.

But Human Rights Watch insist the changes need to keep coming before Burma is allowed to chair ASEAN. And conservative think-tank Heritage Foundation calls it a "massive concession" that shouldn't be rushed.

For a fuller look at Burma's surprising de-isolation, check out Global Post's three-part "Burma Rebooted" series.