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Myanmar: the next cash cow? (INFOGRAPHIC)

With the former junta state open to economic reform, companies around the globe are eyeing a piece of the pie.

In Myanmar, a mini-pogrom by the sea

BANGKOK — The accounts circulating around Myanmar’s troubled west coast recall the beginnings of massacres in Bosnia or Rwanda: hacked limbs, pamphlets stoking mob violence, old women passing out iron spikes to vigilantes and whole city wards burned to the ground.

Myanmar is open for business, but investors wait

President Obama has finally authorized American companies to invest in Myanmar. For the first time in 15 years, companies like General Electric and Chevron that have been aching to tap the energy-rich nation's resources will be able to do just that. But the process isn't going to be as easy as all that.

Yangon’s property bonanza

YANGON, Myanmar — Hoping to set up shop in Yangon? Bring duffel bags full of cash. You might assume that property in Myanmar, one of Asia’s most impoverished and dysfunctional nations, would rent for a pittance. But as the long-shuttered pariah zooms toward political and economic reform, it is swarmed by foreign investors speculating that Myanmar’s big boom is nigh. There are now too few hotels and office buildings in the crumbling commercial capital, Yangon, to cope with the influx of moneyed outsiders. It doesn’t take an economics whiz to guess what happens to property markets with a glut of interest and a paucity of supply.

Myanmar: How American products slip through sanctions

Citizens of Myanmar may now enjoy Coca Cola legally, but foreign manufacturers have skirted sanctions for years.
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Coca Cola, Budweiser, and other popular products have been sold at high prices in Myanmar for years via foreign manufacturers. (Patrick Winn/GlobalPost)

YANGON, Myanmar — Great fanfare accompanied Coca Cola’s recent announcement that, after six long decades, the beverage behemoth would return to Myanmar, Southeast Asia’s pariah on the mend.

More from GlobalPost: Coca Cola to do business in Myanmar

In announcing the decision to enter the country, formerly titled Burma, Coke’s CEO didn’t squander the opportunity for drama. Coca Cola, he said in a press release, would refresh Myanmar just as it did Germany after the Berlin Wall fell and Vietnam after it resumed ties with America.

You might assume that, because the US has long forbid American businesses from doing business with Myanmar, its citizens have lived in a world devoid of Coca Cola. Not quite.

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In Myanmar, clunkers make room for Chinese mini-cars

Now that Myanmar has changed its outdated commerce laws, Chery cars from China are appearing all over Yangon.
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One of many Chery cars from China makes its way down a crowded street in Yangon. (Patrick Winn/GlobalPost)

YANGON, Myanmar — As Myanmar continues to remake itself anew, the country’s perplexing and outmoded laws of commerce are beginning to become more sensible. Among the more confounding laws govern car sales. 

The old system ignored intense demand and allowed the import of only a few thousand vehicles per year. This manipulated the market so badly that Toyotas produced when Whitesnake was still cool sold for nearly $30,000.

As I wrote in a series titled “Burma Rebooted” last year, “traffic in Rangoon [Yangon] is like a procession of zombies on wheels, all resurrected from an auto graveyard.”

More from GlobalPost: The changing face of Myanmar

Those laws are still complex but beginning to come around. The government is now selling import licenses to vehicle owners that turn over their junkers for smelting and the market is slowly becoming normalized.

A notable breakout new car on Myanmar’s streets is China’s Chery QQ3, a little Tic Tac of a car that resembles a downmarket Mini. In fact, Chery’s own website claims that Myanmar’s government has “positioned QQ3 as a ‘national car.’”

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Myanmar: State of emergency declared in western province

Thein Sein said, "If we put racial and religious issues at the forefront, if we put the never-ending hatred, desire for revenge and anarchic actions at the forefront, and if we continue to retaliate and terrorize and kill each other, there's a danger that (the troubles) could multiply and move beyond Rakhine."

Myanmar's big investment buzz

With sanctions fizzling, will gold rush kick into high gear?
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A man prays at Sule Pagoda in downtown Yangon, Myanmar's commercial capital, on Feb. 16, 2012. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

As predicted, the US has joined the European Union in suspending a large portion of American sanctions against Myanmar.

At last, American investors are now urged by none other than US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to "invest in Burma and do it responsibly."

So who'll be first out of the gate?

According to Reuters, General Electric and Caterpillar have set up shop in Myanmar. Ford is exploring options as well. Others are sure to follow.

The White House is hedging somewhat by "suspending" instead of "lifting" sanctions outright. Ostensibly, if Myanmar's reform movement suddenly skidded off the tracks, the US could revert its stance. But once these corporations expand their foothold in Myanmar (formerly Burma), it will be difficult to stop them from continuing to tend to their investments.

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Big news for Myanmar, but still not the biggest

The US failed to lift sanctions against Myanmar, but said some investment restrictions would be loosened.
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A vendor sells fruits at a train station in Yangon, Myanmar, May 17, 2012. (Soe Than Win/AFP/Getty Images)
The US has eased a ban on investments in Myanmar. It does sound big. And it is. For the first time in decades, American companies will now be able to invest in a broad range of sectors in Myanmar, according to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's announcment today. Here's what it means.
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