On April 1, Burma, a nation under military dictatorship for nearly five decades, will have a new government headed by the democratic opposition. The triumph of the National League for Democracy (NLD), headed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, was a victory for democracy in the face of repression. But there are many obstacles to progress in Myanmar, as Burma is officially known:
The military remains a powerful force; the top brass outnumber members of the NLD in Burma’s influential National Defense and Security Council and control one-fourth of parliament. The military also crafted a constitutional clause that denied Suu Kyi the presidency. Instead, she is expected to take four ministerial portfolios, including that of Foreign Minister, as her close confidant Htin Kyaw serves as President.
Modern goods have flooded into Burma since political reforms began in 2011, but an anticipated flow of foreign investment hasn’t panned out. For all of Burma’s resources–natural gas, timber and precious stones–about 70% of the population is still unconnected to the electrical grid.
Despite a national cease-fire signed in October, ethnic strife still rages in Burma’s borderlands. An extremist Buddhist movement is fanning anti-Islam fervor, while the Rohingya, a largely stateless Muslim group, are confined to ghettoes. Suu Kyi, who has been criticized for not speaking out on behalf of the Rohingya, has not yet signaled how the NLD might protect the persecuted minority.
This appears in the April 04, 2016 issue of TIME.