Aung San Suu Kyi

Last week Italy’s government hosted a high-level delegation from Myanmar promoting foreign investment in their rapidly changing “new Asian frontier” of some 60m people where, for example, only about five per cent own mobile phones.

All were wearing civilian clothes but their listed CVs revealed that the entire delegation, all men and including foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin, were former members of the military that ruled the country for nearly 50 years until quasi-civilian rule was introduced in 2011.

“It is much easier to change clothes than the mindset,” commented Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s opposition leader and Nobel peace prize winner who arrived in Rome several days later and gave a news conference on Monday. 

The picture tells the story: US President Barack Obama kisses Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during his brief visit to Yangon on Monday.

Of course, he didn’t go on to hug president Thein Sein, the former general who two years ago ended Suu Kyi’s house arrest and is now cautiously liberalising Myanmar.