Obama encourages reform in Myanmar

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Visit's goal is to ‘sustain the momentum for democratisation’

U.S. President Barack Obama urged Myanmar on Monday to step up its reform drive on a historic visit during which he was cheered by huge crowds and welcomed by Aung San Suu Kyi at the home where she was locked up for years.

The trip, the first to Myanmar by a serving US president, came as the regime freed dozens more political prisoners.In once unthinkable scenes, Obama's motorcade passed tens of thousands of flag-waving supporters – some chanting "America" – lining the streets of Yangon, the backdrop for several bloody crackdowns on pro-democracy uprisings.

After a red-carpet welcome for Air Force One, Obama met Myanmar's reformist President Thein Sein, hoping to embolden the former general to speed up the country's march out of decades of iron-fisted military rule.

"This is just the first step on what will be a long journey," Obama said.

He later stood side-by-side with democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi at the lakeside villa where his fellow Nobel laureate languished for years under house arrest.Obama said the goal of his trip was "to sustain the momentum for democratisation".

"That includes building credible government institutions, establishing rule of law, ending ethnic conflicts and ensuring that the people of this country have access to greater education, health care and economic opportunity," he said.

Suu Kyi for her part sounded a note of caution about the sweeping changes.

"The most difficult time in any transition is when we think that success is in sight," she said. "We have to be very careful that we're not lured by the mirage of success."AFP

Why is the event so special?

  • For the last 50 years, ever since a group of army generals took control of Myanmar, the country has been under military regime with little or no democracy.

  • This situation began changing when Thein Sein became president at the beginning of 2011.

  • Sein began talks with Suu Kyi. Her party National League for Democracy is now part of the country’s parliament.

  • Western countries are beginning to roll back sanctions as Myanmar has initiated reforms.

  • Obama’s visit to Myanmar marks the changing nature of governance in the country.



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