Former Thai General Lertrat Ratanavanich remembers his regular meetings with Myanmar junta leader Than Shwe, who ran the country for 19 years. Like the time the dictator asked for some penguins.
"Than Shwe is very fond of animals, so I was requested by His Excellency to bring penguins," said Lertrat, who retired from the army in 2007 and is now a director of PTT Exploration & Production Pcl, Thailand’s biggest oil explorer. "We also sent two giraffes."
Putting penguins in climate-controlled pens while 64 million people suffer regular power blackouts shows the task facing Myanmar's year-old government to undo half a century of military rule that kept Southeast Asia’s second-biggest country out of the region's economic boom. Efforts by the generals to escape sanctions by slackening their grip on power may take years to translate into the development achieved by regional neighbors Thailand and Malaysia, said Hugh Young, managing director of Aberdeen Asset Management Asia Ltd in Singapore.
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