Obama lends encouragement to Myanmar
YANGON, Myanmar — Tens of thousands of people filled the streets of Yangon on Monday, desperate for a glimpse of something no one had ever seen in their country before: a president of the United States. “O-bam-a!” the sarong-clad crowds chanted, waving and holding signs. “O-bam-a!”
President Obama became the first U.S. president to visit the country, a nation in Southeast Asia isolated for decades under military rule but now emerging as a democracy. He used his trip to the country formerly known as Burma to highlight the nation's successes as it moves toward democracy while urging the government to go further to release political prisoners, help halt ethnic fights and stop human rights violations.
“I came here because of America's belief in human dignity,” Obama said in the major address of his trip to Southeast Asia. “Over the last several decades, our two countries became strangers. But today, I can tell you that we always remained hopeful about the people of this country, about you. You gave us hope. And we bore witness to your courage.”
At a quick six hours, Obama's stop in Myanmar was a small part of a four-day trek that stopped first in Thailand and then took him to Cambodia for an Asian summit later Monday. But Myanmar was the emotional highlight of the trip and the keystone of his message of democracy, freedom and human rights. In Cambodia, Obama had what aides called a “tense” conversation with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen about human rights. In Myanmar, the message was cheered, at least in public.
Obama drew more crowds when he visited famed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi outside her manicured lakeside estate, where she spent 15 years under house arrest before being elected to parliament.
The two leaders greeted each other like old friends before retreating into her home for a brief talk as onlookers shouted “Freedom!” outside her gates. Obama and Suu Kyi emerged a short time later to address a throng of media camped out on her lawn.
“The most difficult time in any transition is when we think that success is in sight,” Suu Kyi said.
“We have to be very careful that we're not lured by the mirage of success.”
In Yangon, signs of capitalism are everywhere. Billboards, written in English, advertise Samsung, Panasonic and Rolex products while hotels are at capacity. The Chamber of Commerce announced Monday that it will co-host a symposium in February in Yangon, hoping to spur American investments in Myanmar's economy that will contribute to a “more stable and open society.”
But changes have not impacted many who live in dilapidated parts of the city and outside the nation's capital. Human rights organizations criticized Obama for visiting Myanmar, complaining that more than 200 political prisoners remain behind bars, more than 100,000 people have been displaced by disputes among ethnic groups and the government continues to approve or even contribute to violence in the Kachin and Rakhine states.
In his conversation with President Thein Sein, Obama referred to the nation as Myanmar, even though Suu Kyi and her supporters prefer Burma, the name used before the military takeover.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- ‘Early Mona Lisa’ painting traced to English noble
- Exit poll: Ex-regime official Essebsi is Tunisia’s new president
- Kurds bring fight to Islamic State in contested Iraqi town
- Nigeria’s Islamic terrorist Boko Haram group poses threat to Cameroon
- Australian woman denied mental health court hearing in slayings of 8 children
- Arrests made in Pakistan school massacre
- Israel responds to rocket strike by rogue jihadists in Gaza Strip
- No movement yet on Afghan cabinet
- Pakistan fervent about anti-blasphemy law
- 15,000 ‘pinstriped Nazis’ march in Dresden to protest Islamic extremism
- Taliban siege at Pakistani school ends with 141 dead