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

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Mali, a Way Station for Syrians Headed to Europe

    Another door may be closing for Syrians fleeing the conflict in their country, this time in Africa

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    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.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora