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Burma President to Lead Town Hall Meeting at VOA

President Thein Sein delivers televised address vowing government protection for rights of minority Muslims, Naypyitaw, May 6, 2013.
Burmese President Thein Sein will join a town hall meeting at the Voice of America Sunday as he begins the first U.S. visit by a Burmese head of state in nearly 50 years.

VOA's Burmese service will broadcast the session on Sunday evening [Washington time] to Burma.

Thein Sein is expected to discuss his program of political and economic reforms for Burma as well as deadly sectarian fighting that began last years in the country's western Rakhine state.

About 30 Burmese citizens will take part in the session, including exchange students, business people, Rohingya Muslims and refugees.

The dialogue with President Thein Sein comes before his scheduled talks at the White House on Monday with President Barack Obama.

White House officials say Obama looks forward to discussing Burma's effort to develop democracy following nearly five decades of military rule, increased economic opportunities for the Burmese people and communal and ethnic tensions.

Obama visited Burma in November — the first U.S. head of state to travel to the Southeast Asian nation.

After years of frosty relations, the United States has expanded and energized its ties with the government in Burma. Some rights monitors say Burma's human-rights policies are still seriously flawed despite the civilian government's efforts to develop a democratic society.

Fighting between Rakhine Buddhists and Muslims last year left 200 people dead and more than 100,000 homeless, most of them Rohingya Muslims.