News / Asia

Obama: Burma's Journey an Example for Asia, World

In a historic visit to Burma, U.S. President Barack Obama has acknowledged the beginning of reforms, saying the United States will support democracy efforts, economic development and efforts at national reconciliation.

In a speech at the University of Rangoon, Obama referred to a pledge he made at his presidential inauguration in 2009 to "extend a hand" to governments that ruled by fear if they are ready to "unclench their fist."

He reviewed a long history of U.S. - Burma relations, saying he came because of America's belief in human dignity. He said a dramatic transition is under way in Burma.

"Over the past year and a half, a dictatorship of five decades has loosened its grip.  Under President Thein Sein, the desire for change has been met by an agenda for reform," said Obama. "A civilian now leads the government, and a parliament is asserting itself."

  • US President Barack Obama, right, waves as he embraces Myanmar democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi at her residence in Rangoon, Burma, Nov. 19, 2012.
  • US President Barack Obama watches as Aung San Suu Kyi center greets Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Rangoon, Burma, Nov 19, 2012.
  • US President Barack Obama, left, shakes hands with Burma's President Thein Sein in Rangoon, Burma, Nov 19, 2012.
  • US President Barack Obama is presented with flowers as he and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, arrive at Rangoon International Airport in Burma, Nov 19, 2012.
  • Crowd cheers as US President Barack Obama arrives at opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's home in Rangoon, Burma, Nov 19, 2012.
  • A man holds a sign reading: "Help to bring peace" as people line the street to see U.S. President Barack Obama in Burma, Nov. 19, 2012.
  • US President Barack Obama speaks to reporters as he tours Shwedagon Pagoda with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Rangoon, Burma, Nov 19, 2012.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama tours the Shwedagon Pagoda with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Rangoon, Burma, Monday, Nov. 19, 2012.

The president noted the release of some political prisoners, the National League for Democracy standing in the 2010 election, the banning of forced labor, new economic laws, and preliminary cease-fires with ethnic groups.

Saying he came to extend the hand of friendship, he noted the easing of U.S. sanctions and the appointment of a U.S. ambassador. But he cautioned that Burma has much further to go.

“This remarkable journey has just begun, and has much further to go," he said. "Reforms launched from the top of society must meet the aspirations of citizens who form its foundation. The flickers of progress that we have seen must not be extinguished, they must be strengthened, they must become a shining North Star for all this nation’s people."

The president listed freedoms the Burmese people should have, including freedom of assembly, worship and expression. He called for an end to media censorship.

Obama drew applause twice, once when he said no reform process can succeed without national reconciliation with ethnic groups. He also called for an end to violence against Rohingyas in Burma's Rakhine state.
President Obama's stops in Burma, Thailand and Cambodia.President Obama's stops in Burma, Thailand and Cambodia.
x
President Obama's stops in Burma, Thailand and Cambodia.
President Obama's stops in Burma, Thailand and Cambodia.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accompanied Obama to Burma. Their motorcade drove down a road lined with thousands of people, including students holding U.S. and Burmese flags, and signs reading "Mr. Obama we love you."

​At the parliament building, Obama met with President Thein Sein, a former general who has led reform steps.

"I shared with President Thein Sein our belief that the process of reform that he is taking is one that will move this country forward," he said.

In translated remarks, the Burmese president said relations had some disappointments and obstacles over the past two decades, but are now being repaired.

"I would like to reiterate our commitment to continue cooperation to strengthen our bilateral relations in the years to come," he said.

At the home of Aung San Suu Kyi, Obama praised her as a brave fighter for democracy. She said ongoing reforms will face difficult challenges.

Obama: "I especially want to thank Aung San Suu Kyi for welcoming me to her home. Here, through so many difficult years is where she displayed such unbreakable courage and determination. It is here where she showed that human freedom and dignity cannot be denied."

Suu Kyi: "The most difficult time in any transition is when we think that success is in sight. Then we have to be very careful that we are not lured by a mirage of success and that we are working toward genuine success for our people and for the friendship between our two countries."

In his speech, President Obama said Burma can serve as "a test of whether a country can transition to a better place" and as an example to others in the region.

"Here in Rangoon, I want to send a message across Asia: we don't need to be defined by the prisons of the past. We need to look forward to the future," he stated. "To the leadership of North Korea, I have offered a choice: let go of your nuclear weapons, and choose the path of peace and progress. If you do, you will find an extended hand from the United States of America."

In his Rangoon speech, Obama referred to the title of an essay and book by Aung San Suu Kyi: "Freedom from Fear."

The Burmese people, he said, are showing the world that fear does "not have to be the natural state of life in their country."

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: menolie from: Eudora Kansas, U.S.A.
November 19, 2012 8:18 PM
Good luck with North Korea Mr. President.


by: Anonymous
November 19, 2012 9:29 AM
good


by: Anonymous
November 19, 2012 9:08 AM
good


by: Paris Tun from: Yangon
November 19, 2012 8:08 AM
Simply, as a myanmar citizen, i hope that good relationships with US will mean, more investments from US and more job opportunities for us. Esp, english translator or interpretor posts. My heart sinks whenever i look at the job ads which is full of vacancies for chinese or japenese translators.


by: zaw htet from: Myanmar
November 19, 2012 7:37 AM
Welcomes to OBAMA.You are one of grate person i admire.


by: Rabbani from: England, UK
November 19, 2012 6:15 AM
Thank you for your opinion. Your comment will appear only after we think it is the same as our opinion


by: Rabbani from: England
November 19, 2012 6:13 AM
Anyone ever wonder why USA is so interested in Burmas? USA has no History what so ever with Burma!!!!!!, oh I know an initial disgusting step to have a presence to destabalise China, NASTY, people google or Yahoo to find the facts!!!!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid