Thailand is set to place a woman with little political experience in charge in a transition of power that could soothe six years of political turmoil.
Polls suggest that Thailand's opposition Puea Thai Party (PTP), which is loyal to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and led by his sister, will win the largest share in a divisive July 3 parliamentary vote.
Voter dissatisfaction is high over rising inequality and the high cost of living. For the first time, opposition candidates contested virtually every seat in parliament.
Sunday's by-election in Thailand offer a window on the continuing divide, and hints at the enduring strength of the red shirt opposition.
Thailand's 'red shirt' protesters canceled a march Monday as the Army fanned out to block them. But they vowed to continue their demonstration, now at five weeks, until Prime Minsiter Abhisit steps down and calls elections.
But questions over a US role in any economic grouping and rivalry between China and Japan may thwart a rapid rollout of either plan.
Last weekend 6,000 protestors demonstrated on the third anniversary of the military coup. US concern about democracy is reflected in USAID's return to boost the nation's once-vibrant civil society.
The reclusive regime in Burma (Myanmar) is touting its newfound openness, but skeptics wonder whether Webb's rare visit will bring any democratic reform.
The US secretary of State's presence is meant to send a signal that Southeast Asia matters – and that the US is watching Chinese influence in the region.
The regime allowed journalists and diplomats to watch the trial as it entered its third day.