Until very recently, the reforms brought in by Burma’s civilian government, elected last November in polls that were neither free nor fair, seemed worth treating with scepticism. Only a month ago, I pointed out that Burmese governments had instituted limited reforms before, in the 1990s and early 2000s, only to crack down on any dissent after getting what they wanted – foreign investment or membership of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The new president, Thein Sein, seemed like a reformer, but surely his power was limited: Senior General Than Shwe, the longtime military ruler, still lurked in the background, and the ranks below Thein Sein were filled with hardliners. Most notably, according to many reports, the vice-president, Tin Aung Myint Oo, is committed to blocking any real reforms. And the government has plenty to gain this time, too: the possible leadership of Asean in 2014, as well as rapprochement with the West, which might boost foreign investment and allow Burma to become less dependent on China. Still, even sceptics are starting to believe that this time the changes may be for real.