Obama: Historic Myanmar visit is sign of progress

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The president has trumpeted Suu Kyi’s support of his outreach efforts, saying she was “very encouraging” of his trip.

The White House said Obama intended to express concern about ethnic tensions in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state, where more than 110,000 people, the vast majority of them Muslims known as Rohingya, have been displaced.

The U.N. has said the Rohingya. who are widely reviled by the Buddhist majority in Myanmar, are among the world’s most persecuted people.

The White House said Obama planned to press the matter with Thein Sein, along with demands to free remaining political prisoners.

The president also prepared to give a speech at Rangoon University, the center of the country’s struggle for independence against Britain and the launching point for many pro-democracy protests. The former military junta shut the dormitories in the 1990s fearing further unrest and forced most students to attend classes on satellite campuses on the outskirts of town.

Obama began his Asian tour on a steamy day in Bangkok with a visit to the Wat Pho Royal Monastery. In stocking feet, the president and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton walked around a golden statue of a sitting Buddha. The complex is a sprawling display of buildings with colorful spires, gardens and waterfalls.

Obama then paid a courtesy call to the ailing, 84-year-old U.S.-born King Bhumibol Adulyadej in his hospital quarters. The king, the longest serving living monarch, was born in Cambridge, Mass., and studied in Europe.

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Associated Press writer Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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