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Obama to visit Myanmar this month
Will be first sitting U.S. president to ever do so
President Obama will make history later this month by becoming the first U.S. president to visit the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar, which after nearly five decades of military rule has shaken off its pariah status by taking tentative steps toward democratic reform.
However, human rights activists say it is too early to reward Myanmar with a presidential visit.
In a letter to the president, Aung Din cited a raging war between Myanmar’s military and ethnic Karen rebels in the country’s north and communal violence involving stateless Muslim Rohingyas in the west
He also said freed political prisoners are vulnerable to being arrested again. He added that the judiciary is flawed and the military still dominates the economy and politics.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in December became the first U.S. secretary of state to travel to Myanmar in 56 years.
Mr. Obama’s trip to Asia, from Nov. 17 to Nov. 20, will also include stops in Thailand and Cambodia.
The president will meet Myanmar’s opposition leader and fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, and the country’s reformist president, Thein Sein.
Mrs. Suu Kyi made a historic visit to the United States in September. At the time of her release from house arrest in November 2010, she had spent 15 of the previous 20 years in prison or under house arrest.
Thein Sein, a retired general, told the U.N. General Assembly’s annual meeting in September that his country has taken “tangible, irreversible steps in the democratic transition and reform process.”
The Obama administration has rewarded Myanmar by waiving import sanctions. Congress in August extended some sanctions on Myanmar by a year but gave the president the authority to waive the import sanctions.
U.S. relations with Myanmar have thawed over the past year as the military-backed government has released hundreds of political prisoners, legalized opposition political parties, eased restrictions on the press and enacted laws to strengthen workers’ rights. But there are still more than 300 political prisoners in Myanmar.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.
Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.
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