“Part of me feels that this [White House visit is] too much, too soon. … But part of me likes the idea of inviting President Thein Sein to the White House,” said Aung Din. “This proves that Burma is still on the top of the U.S. foreign policy priorities.”
In November, Mr. Obama became the first U.S. president to visit Myanmar.
“As President Obama noted in his speech in Rangoon last November, the United States is very aware that Burma is at the beginning of what will be a long and challenging road to democracy and reform,” the senior U.S. official said. “We’ve seen a number of meaningful steps in the right direction, including working with civil society to ensure political prisoners are freed, the easing of censorship, the ending of visa restrictions, proliferation of daily newspapers and the beginning of a constitutional reform process.
“We also recognize that reforms are fragile and not fully institutionalized,” the official said.
Myanmar has not kept several promises, such as giving humanitarian groups access to ethnic areas and opening a U.N. human rights office.
It allowed Mrs. Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate who had been in detention for 15 of the previous 20 years at the time of her release in November 2010, to be elected to parliament in April 2012. But it will face a real test of its commitment to democratic reforms in 2015, when national elections are scheduled.
“The concern we have is that the U.S. government will have spent all its capital by then,” Mr. Sifton said. “What will you do in 2015 if the military refuses to relinquish power? The sanctions can’t be easily put back.”