News / Asia

    President Obama to Make Historic Burma Visit

    President Barack Obama meets with Aung San Suu Kyi in the Oval Office of the White House, Sept. 19, 2012.
    President Barack Obama meets with Aung San Suu Kyi in the Oval Office of the White House, Sept. 19, 2012.
    Kent Klein
    President Barack Obama is set to visit Burma this month, as part of a four-day trip to Southeast Asia. The president will also stop in Thailand and Cambodia.

    Obama will be the first U.S. president to visit Burma and Cambodia.  The trip is scheduled for November 17-20.

    Administration officials say that while in Rangoon, the president will meet with Burmese President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    Priscilla Clapp, the former charge d’affaire at the U.S. embassy in Rangoon, told VOA’s Burmese Service Thursday that the president’s visit will help advance efforts toward democracy in Burma.
     
    Recent High-Ranking Visits to Burma

    • U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited in April. Praising President Thein Sein, he urged further rollback of Western sanctions
    • EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton opened a new EU office in Burma on April 28 after the bloc suspended sanctions
    • British PM David Cameron visited in April, met with President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi
    • U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited in November
    “That will further consolidate the [bilateral] relationship, and I think it will be very good because President Obama will then have personal experience in Myanmar and we’ll see a strengthening of our current policy,” Clapp said.
     
    A White House statement says Obama hopes “to encourage Burma’s ongoing democratic transition” during his visit.

    U.S.-Burma relations have improved greatly since a nominally civilian government took power last year, ending five decades of military rule, and instituting some democratic reforms and freeing many political prisoners.

    Opposition to visit

    But the Washington-based human rights group, the U.S. Campaign for Burma, is asking Obama not to go to Rangoon.  The organization’s Jennifer Quigley says the reforms made so far in Burma are superficial.

    “There are a lot of really serious outstanding human rights issues that warrant the president taking a deeper look at fixing those problems and seeing resolutions to those issues before he goes and gives the sort of stamp of approval to President Thein Sein,” Quigley said.

    The group wants Obama to visit parts of Burma where, it says, religious and ethnic minorities are still being oppressed.

    The Burmese military continues an offensive against ethnic Kachin minorities in the north, and unrest in Rakhine state has killed numerous Rohingya Muslims.

    Other human rights organizations support President Obama's visit, adding that they hope it will be accompanied by a continued emphasis on human rights in Burma.

    Other Stops on Trip

    Obama will also be the first U.S. president to visit Phnom Penh, where he will attend the East Asia Summit and meet with the leaders of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

    In Bangkok, the president will meet with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.  The two leaders will mark 180 years of diplomatic relations between the United States and Thailand.

    Obama is expected to talk with Asian leaders about economic and trade issues, energy and security cooperation as well as human rights and other regional and global issues at the ASEAN summit.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Rich Mookerdum from: Australia/Myanmar
    November 09, 2012 12:59 AM
    It’s good to see the international community, including the US, now adopt a pragmatic approach to Myanmar, and clawing back the no-win *Burma policy* from self-seeking human rights groups.

    Clearly, exile dissidents and activists had failed to realise that HR is also about jobs, healthcare and education. There is far too much knowledge today about the small South East Asian nation for lies to prevail.

    History shows that the best check on despotism is a thriving business class. This often means democracy.

    There is also the theory that democracy, as people (in the West) understand it, arrives when nations reach a certain income level . . . Political pluralism seems to be linked to economic sophistication.

    So, we should be optimistic about pluralism in Burma.

    The US President’s visit, no doubt, will further strengthen Myanmar’s road to democracy, and sideline yesterday’s extreme Left.

    Welcome to the Land of the Golden Pagodas, Mr Obama.

    -- Burmese-born journalist

    by: Jack from: Louisville
    November 08, 2012 6:53 PM
    He is probably going to get some pointers from the dictators there on how to best become the tyrant he aspires to be.

    by: Bill from: Montana
    November 08, 2012 6:21 PM
    Why the h--- would the President of the United States leave on a trip when he has the people that voted him in staying in shelters and dying from cold on the east coast.with no real sense of when they will get relief.

    by: vageorge from: Wise, VA
    November 08, 2012 6:20 PM
    I do pray that they keep obama forever

    by: Norm Campbell from: 39554
    November 08, 2012 6:10 PM
    Well Now - He's already taking trips , same ob BS for
    four more years - Money has no end for him !

    by: HY41 from: Utah
    November 08, 2012 6:03 PM
    Oh great. This is really useful for the American interests. Just another O vacation at tax payer expense. He just doesn't get it does he?

    by: Zee
    November 08, 2012 5:44 PM
    Of course! Now that the election is over, it's back to VACATION and SPEND, VACATION and SPEND! That's all Obummer does!

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