Obama in Cambodia after rousing Myanmar welcome

  • President Obama walks to the reception room past a wall decoration prior to the gala dinner in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Nov. 19, 2012. Obama is in Cambodia on the final leg of his three-country tour of Southeast Asia. (Associated Press)President Obama walks to the reception room past a wall decoration prior to the gala dinner in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Nov. 19, 2012. Obama is in Cambodia on the final leg of his three-country tour of Southeast Asia. (Associated Press)
  • President Obama speaks Nov. 19, 2012, at University of Yangon in Yangon, Myanmar. In a historic trip to a long shunned land, Obama showered praise and promises of more U.S. help to Myanmar if the Asian nation keeps building its new democracy. (Associated PressPresident Obama speaks Nov. 19, 2012, at University of Yangon in Yangon, Myanmar. In a historic trip to a long shunned land, Obama showered praise and promises of more U.S. help to Myanmar if the Asian nation keeps building its new democracy. (Associated Press
  • U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (left in foreground) and Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi sit together before President Obama speaks Nov. 19, 2012, at University of Yangon in Yangon, Myanmar. (Associated Press)U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (left in foreground) and Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi sit together before President Obama speaks Nov. 19, 2012, at University of Yangon in Yangon, Myanmar. (Associated Press)
  • Members of the audience, including Myanmar Buddhist leader Sitagu Sayadaw (right front), look to the stage Nov. 19, 2012, as President Obama speaks at Yangon University in Yangon, Myanmar. It was the first visit to Myanmar by a sitting U.S. president. (Associated Press)Members of the audience, including Myanmar Buddhist leader Sitagu Sayadaw (right front), look to the stage Nov. 19, 2012, as President Obama speaks at Yangon University in Yangon, Myanmar. It was the first visit to Myanmar by a sitting U.S. president. (Associated Press)
  • President Obama (right) tours the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar, on Nov. 19, 2012. In a historic trip to a long shunned land, Obama showered praise and promises of more U.S. help to Myanmar if the Asian nation keeps building its new democracy. (Associated Press)President Obama (right) tours the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar, on Nov. 19, 2012. In a historic trip to a long shunned land, Obama showered praise and promises of more U.S. help to Myanmar if the Asian nation keeps building its new democracy. (Associated Press)
  • President Obama waves as he embraces Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Nov. 19, 2012, after addressing the media at her residence in Yangon, Myanmar. Obama, who touched down that morning, became the first U.S. president to visit the Asian nation also known as Burma. (Associated Press)President Obama waves as he embraces Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Nov. 19, 2012, after addressing the media at her residence in Yangon, Myanmar. Obama, who touched down that morning, became the first U.S. president to visit the Asian nation also known as Burma. (Associated Press)
  • President Obama boards Air Force One at Yangon International Airport in Yangon, Myanmar, on Nov. 19, 2012, en route to Phnom Penh International Airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where he will attend the East Asia Summit. (Associated Press)President Obama boards Air Force One at Yangon International Airport in Yangon, Myanmar, on Nov. 19, 2012, en route to Phnom Penh International Airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where he will attend the East Asia Summit. (Associated Press)
  • President Obama is given flowers as he and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (right) arrive on Air Force One at Phnom Penh International Airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Nov. 19, 2012, to attend the East Asia Summit. (Associated Press)President Obama is given flowers as he and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (right) arrive on Air Force One at Phnom Penh International Airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Nov. 19, 2012, to attend the East Asia Summit. (Associated Press)
  • President Obama is seen from behind as he attends the East Asia Summit at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Nov. 19, 2012. (Associated Press)President Obama is seen from behind as he attends the East Asia Summit at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Nov. 19, 2012. (Associated Press)
  • President Obama (fourth from left) waves as he stands with ASEAN leaders for a group photo during the ASEAN-U.S. leaders' meeting at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Nov. 19, 2012. They are (from left) Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Obama, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Laos Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong. (Associated Press)President Obama (fourth from left) waves as he stands with ASEAN leaders for a group photo during the ASEAN-U.S. leaders' meeting at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Nov. 19, 2012. They are (from left) Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Obama, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Laos Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong. (Associated Press)
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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Making history twice within hours, President Barack Obama on Monday became the first U.S. president to set foot in Cambodia, a country once known for its Khmer Rouge “killing fields.” He left behind flag-waving crowds on the streets of Myanmar, the once internationally shunned nation now showing democratic promise.

Unlike the visit to Myanmar, where Obama seemed to revel in that nation’s new hope, the White House made clear that Obama is only in Cambodia to attend an East Asia Summit and said the visit should not be seen as an endorsement of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government.

Indeed, Obama’s arrival in Cambodia lacked the euphoria of his greeting in Myanmar, where tens of thousands of people lined the streets of Yangon to cheer the first American president to visit a country that until recently had long been isolated from the West. “You gave us hope,” Obama declared in Yangon.

In Phnom Penh, small clusters of Cambodians gathered in the streets to watch the motorcade pass by, without any of the outpouring that greeted Obama in Myanmar.

From the airport, Obama headed straight to the Peace Palace for a meeting with Hun Sen that later was described by U.S. officials as a tense encounter dominated by the president voicing concerns about Cambodia’s human rights record. He specifically raised the lack of free and fair elections, the detention of political prisoners and land seizures, officials said.

Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Obama told the prime minister that those issues are “an impediment” to a deeper relationship between the U.S. and Cambodia. Rhodes said Hun Sen defended his country’s record, saying unique circumstances motivate its policies and practices. Still, the prime minister expressed a desire to deepen ties with the U.S., Rhodes said.

Earlier in Myanmar, Obama addressed a national audience from the University of Yangon, offering a “hand of friendship” and a lasting U.S. commitment, yet a warning, too. He said the new civilian government must nurture democracy or watch it, and U.S. support, disappear.

The six-hour stop in Myanmar was the centerpiece of a four-day trip to Southeast Asia that began in Bangkok and ends Tuesday in Cambodia, where Obama will visit with Chinese, Japanese and Southeast Asia leaders in addition to attending the East Asia Summit with regional leaders.

Obama celebrated the history of what he was witnessing in Myanmar — a nation shedding years of military rule, and a relationship between two nations changing fast.

“This remarkable journey has just begun,” he said.

In a notable detour from U.S. policy, the president referred to the nation as Myanmar in his talks with President Thein Sein. That is the name preferred by the former military regime and the new government, rather than Burma, the old name favored by democracy advocates and the U.S. government.

Rhodes said afterward that Obama’s use of Myanmar was “a diplomatic courtesy” that doesn’t change the U.S. position that the country is still Burma.

On his first trip abroad since his re-election earlier this month, Obama’s motorcade sped him to the lakeside home in Yangon of longtime opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. He hugged her and lauded her as a personal inspiration. Suu Kyi spent most of the past 20 years in house detention at her home.

In remarks after their meeting, Suu Kyi echoed Obama’s tone with an admonition of her own, one that could have been directed at her own ruling party as much as to the United States:

“The most difficult time in any transition is when we think that success is in sight,” she said. “Then we have to be very careful that we’re not lured by the mirage of success.”

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