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Myanmar was isolated from the rest of the world for nearly half a century. When I first visited the country in the 1980s, tourists could obtain a visa for a maximum of seven days, and tour groups were shadowed, fairly blatantly, by the secret police. A paranoid military junta governed the country from 1962 until 2011, when strongman Gen. Than Shwe finally stepped down in favor of a milder-mannered former general, Thein Sein, to clear a path to some form of civilian government.