But that will only be possible with "a focus on agriculture" he says, calling for far-sighted policy to boost a sector which provides a living for the vast majority of Myanmar's people.

The government has been widely praised for major economic initiatives, including unifying multiple exchange rates, and enacting a foreign investment law.

But experts warn that social unrest may lie ahead if the benefits of reform do not trickle down, and fast, to the country's most disadvantaged.

"This is potentially one of the major issues the reform process may have to face," said Slingsby.

"Manifestations of discontent with poverty will take place," said Win Htein, a lower house MP from Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, predicting frequent protests as democracy is embedded.

"But they (protests) cannot reach the stage of threatening the government."

Voicing discontent

It is a warning that comes with recent precedent. In 2007, a revolt led by Buddhist monks was sparked by anger at a sharp hike in fuel prices.

It was brutally stamped out by the junta, but was the most serious challenge to the generals since a popular uprising in 1988.

Myanmar's nominally-civilian new regime has legalised protest allowing the country's long-suffering people to voice their discontent - notably last spring against crippling power cuts.

In contrast with the dark years of the junta, the response of the new administration was measured, says Turnell, "but there is always a danger" of a return to the repressive reflexes of the past.

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