Deal-Hungry West Watches as Aung Suu Kyi and NLD Party Dominate Burma Parliamentary Elections

Burma or Myanmar, either is correct, one of the world's richest countries in untapped gold, copper and gemstones, held Parliamentary elections Sunday April 1 and political activist Aung Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party swept the table.

Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest because of her pro-democracy activism, was voted the representative for the Kawhmu constituency.

The NLD claims it won all 44 constituencies. The Union Election Commission says its numbers show  the NLD  won 35 of the 45 seats in parliament.

Burma's Parliament has 662 representatives.  The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party still controls 80 percent of the seats.

In her victory address to supporters, the 66-year-old Suu Kyi said the important result that came out of the elections was that voters finally got to participate in a democratic process.

That wasn't the case in  the 1990 general election. Then, Suu Kyi's party won 392 of the 492 seats.  But the government refused to recognize the results.

Nobody knows what Sunday's election results will eventually mean for the country. If Burma President Thein Sein and the military continue to loosen controls over the population, the country could eventually become the next economic frontier of Asia.

Sein was elected in 2010 under questionable voting guidelines. The army has controlled the country for 49 years.

Western countries are eager to lift sanctions and let their companies invest in the once-isolated state.

China already is preparing to set up shop once the country looks kosher again to the world. The U.S. and Great Britain are also trying to figure out how to lift years-old sanctions on Myanmar, now that the elections appear to have been legitimate.  

The government won points by grudgingly allowing a proper monitoring mission over the April 1 elections. It  invited a team of five Southeast Asian observers and asked the United States, the European Union and others to send in two people each.

But even if international corporations are permitted to set up shop in Burma, there is little discretionary income among the country's 64 million inhabitants. Most are dirt poor.

Many of the sanctions from a host of countries can't be lifted overnight.  Western investors are frustrated as they hear of  Asian firms closing up deals and business delegations already pouring into the country to scope out opportunities.

Hotel prices in Yangon, the former capital and largest city in Myanmar, have soared to $400 per night from about the average $40, a price that only foreigners can expect to pay.

Myanmar's per capita gross domestic product amounts to $2.25 per day, about half that of Vietnam and 14 percent of neighboring Thailand's, according to International Monetary Fund estimates. Only one in 30 people has a mobile phone and even fewer have Internet access.

Myanmar's total land area is second only to Indonesia in Southeast Asia. It is , positioned between India and China and sits on maritime trade routes between Europe and East Asia.

In British colonial times, Burma or Myanmar, was considered the world's largest rice exporter -- a title now held by neighbor and onetime enemy Thailand.

Will Sunday's elections turn all that around at some future date?  Don't bet on it.  

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