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Clinton Visits Burma: Steps Toward Openness in a Pariah State
Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Hillary Clinton arrives in Burma on Wednesday. She is the first top-level American official to visit the isolated Asian nation in more than 50 years.

During that time, economic sanctions have hindered development in Burma and the country's military has become known for a variety of injustices, including child soldiers, political prisoners, state-sanctioned rape and the world’s longest-running civil war.

In an ostensible step away from a military dictatorship, Burma held its first democratic elections in 2010. But the voting was rigged, and the victorious party was stacked with ex-officers and their cronies.

Only now are official breakthroughs finally chipping away at the old narrative. Recent shifts in Burma include the approval of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's political party, economic liberalization, and reduction of cultural censorship.

So, what does Clinton's visit mean for the country? Some analysts foresee a stronger US-Burma relationship that could shift regional politics and potentially dislodge China as Burma’s lone ally.

The world watches as Burma is courted by two world powers. 

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Related – Clinton Visits Burma: Steps Toward Openness in a Pariah State – Worshippers light candles at Myanmar's landmark Shwedagon pagoda on the eve of the Full Moon Day Festival in Yangon on November 9, 2011.

(Soe Than Win - AFP/Getty Images)
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This photo taken December 28, 2010 at sunset shows some of the thousands pagodas and temples of Bagan in central Burma.

(Voishmel - AFP/Getty Images)
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A woman carries plates on her head in Yangon on September 27, 2009 a day after the two-year anniversary of the ruling junta's violent crackdown on Buddhist monks who led mass street protests. At least 31 people were killed in the 2007 crackdown which led to stepped up Western sanctions on military-run Myanmar.

(Nicolas Asfouri - AFP/Getty Images)
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Buddhist monks march down a street in downtown Yangon, 25 September 2007, despite stern warnings from Myanmar's junta against the anti-government protests. In another day of public defiance against the generals and their iron grip on the country, some 30,000 monks dressed in saffron and red robes.

(AFP - AFP/Getty Images)
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A Burmese man with a tattoo of the 'father of the nation' Bogyoke Aung San works on the docks of the San Pya fish market on December 9, 2010 in Yangon, Burma.

(Drn/Getty Images - AFP/Getty Images)
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Australia's Ross Dunkley (C), co-founder of the Myanmar Times newspaper, is escorted by Myanmar policemen as he arrives for a hearing at the Kamaryut township court in Yangon on March 17, 2011. The Australian media boss appeared back in court in Myanmar on a charge of assault in a case some observers believe stems from a power struggle.

(Soe Than Win - AFP/Getty Images)
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A general view of seated Members of the Myanmar Parliament attending proceedings at the Union Parliament in Naypyidaw on August 22, 2011. Myanmar's president Thein Sein said his government was ready to work with the international community in a speech at the opening of a new session of parliament.

(Soe Than Win - AFP/Getty Images)
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Burmese children wait for malaria test results at special clinic for malaria on May 4, 2009 in Sittwe, Arakan state, Burma.

(Paula Bronstein - AFP/Getty Images)
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A Buddhist monk (R) offers some of his food, donated to him by local people at dawn, to poor people at the Maha Gent Nar Youn Monastery in Mandalay on September 29, 2009.

(Nicolas Asfouri - AFP/Getty Images)
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An NLD supporter holds up pictures of Myanmar's democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi (L) and her father, the late General Aung San, during celebrations for her 66th birthday at the National League for Democracy (NLD) headquarters in Yangon on June 19, 2011.

(AFP - AFP/Getty Images)
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Burmese activists (L) dressed as soldier and another wearing mask of Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi (R) perform a street play during a protest in front of the Burmese embassy in Bangkok on May 17, 2009.

(Pornchai Kittiwongsakul - AFP/Getty Images)
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Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi poses for a portrait at the National League for Democracy (NLD) headquarters in Yangon on December 8, 2010 in Yangon, Burma.

(Drn/Getty Images - AFP/Getty Images)
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A woman works in a traditional hand weaving workshop using lotus fibers on Inle Lake in Burma's Shan state on December 30, 2010.

(Voishmel - AFP/Getty Images)
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Military Soldiers remove broken parts of building next to the Big Buddha on May 9, 2008, in Kyacek Tan (50 km South of Yangon), Burma. It has been estimated that more than 100,000 people were killed by Cyclone Nargis.

(Chumsak Kanoknan - AFP/Getty Images)
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A Burmese children holds an infant as he crys for food on May 12, 2008, in Maubin, Burma.

(Chumsak Kanoknan - AFP/Getty Images)
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A young girl from the village of Chaung Lin runs next to wet books drying, to receive food thrown from a boat on May 23, 2008 in the isolated area of Kanzeik in the Irrawaddy Delta region -- an area only accessible by boat which has received neither government nor foreign aid.

(AFP/Lisandru - AFP/Getty Images)
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Burmese men work on the docks of the San Pya fish market on December 9, 2010 in Yangon, Burma. Last month Myanmar saw the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi after seven years of house arrest.

(Drn/Getty Images - AFP/Getty Images)
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A fisherman stands in the morning light on Inle Lake in Burma's Shan state on December 31, 2010. The 13.5 mile long and 7 mile wide Inle Lake is one of the top tourist destinations in the country.

(Voishmel - AFP/Getty Images)
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A young boy gets help with his robe just before the start of the Bhuddhist novice ordination ceremony to start at the Mahamyat Muni monastery April 1, 2009 in Tachilek, Burma.

(Paula Bronstein - AFP/Getty Images)
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Children from the Karen National Union (KNU) insurgent army hold assault weapons during celebrations marking the 51st anniversary of the army's rebellion against the Myanmar Junta in Tak, near the border with Thailand 31 January 2000.

(Pornchai Kittiwongsakul - AFP/Getty Images)
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A punk arriving at the Bogyoke market during the first day of Thingyan in Yangon, April 12, 2011. Thingyan celebrates the beginning of the Myanmar lunar new year where people celebrate by splashing water at each other since it takes place at the hottest time of the year.

(AFP - AFP/Getty Images)
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A supporter of Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi holds a portrait of her at the National League for Democracy (NLD) headquarters on November 13, 2010 in Yangon, Burma.

(Soe Than - AFP/Getty Images)
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A Rohingya boy watches as malaria medicine is given out to patients at special clinic for malaria on May 4, 2009 in Sittwe, Arakan state, Burma. The majority of the patients treated belong to the Rohingya Muslim minority, who are subject to severe restrictions of movement by the government, religious persecution, and extortion.

(Paula Bronstein - AFP/Getty Images)
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Burmese soldiers march during the 63rd Armed Forces Day in administrative capital Naypyidaw on March 27, 2008.

(Khin Maung Win - AFP/Getty Images)
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Burmese newspaper delivery man U Khin Zaw Myint, 63, looks at his newspapers in Yangon on October 16, 2011.

(Soe Than Win - AFP/Getty Images)
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Family members of prisoners wait for their release outside the Insein central prison in Yangon on October 12, 2011.

(Soe Than Win - AFP/Getty Images)
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People visit the Shwedagon Paya on December 05, 2010 in Yangon, Burma.

(Drn/Getty Images - AFP/Getty Images)
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Western tourists playing in the sea at sunset at a beach in Burma's western coastal resort of Ngapali, Burma, February 15, 2011. Despite the allure of its picture-perfect sands, Myanmar's murky political landscape has kept the beach largely under the radar of most tropical sun-seekers.

(Soe Than Win - AFP/Getty Images)
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Sun rises against the historical pagodas in Bagan, some 640 kilometers north of Burma's biggest city of Yangon, 22 January 2008.

(Khin Maung Win - AFP/Getty Images)
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