Environmentalists are viewing signs of openness in Myanmar with a measure of fear because of the risk that one of Asia's last bastions of biodiversity could be lost.

Myanmar has avoided rampant development because of decades of isolation brought on by harsh military rule. But as foreign investors begin pouring in, activists in what was once known as Burma say endemic corruption, virtually nonexistent environmental laws and a long-repressed civil society make it ripe for exploitation.

Pro-democracy reformers and conservationists are urging the government to put more safeguards in place, but the rush is already on, primarily from other Asian countries. Sanctions still prevent the U.S. and European countries from starting companies in Myanmar.