Obama full of praise for Burma's 'journey' towards reform
Published 20/11/2012 | 05:00
US PRESIDENT Barack Obama has praised Burma's "remarkable journey" since it embarked on reforms two years ago, and pledged to do "everything we can to ensure success" during his official visit to the country.
Thousands of people lined the roads near Rangoon's airport after Air Force One's morning arrival, with cheering crowds standing six or seven deep along his route.
"Mr Obama we love you, you are the legend hero of our world," read one huge banner.
In scenes unimaginable a short time ago, Mr Obama – the first sitting US president to visit the country – met Aung San Suu Kyi, the revered democracy campaigner, at the home where she was detained for the best part of two decades.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner received a hug and a kiss on the cheek from Mr Obama and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. However, Ms Suu Kyi warned her visitors that "difficult years" lay ahead.
"I say difficult because the most difficult time in any transition is when we think that success is in sight. Then we have to be very careful that we are not lured by a mirage of success," she said.
Mr Obama has already come under fire from human rights groups for agreeing to visit Burma in the wake of deadly clashes between the Muslim Rohingya minority and the Buddhist majority in western Burma, and while hundreds of political prisoners remain in jail.
The Burmese authorities this week announced the release of a further 66 political detainees, but the opposition National League for Democracy estimates that at least 180 more are still imprisoned. During an afternoon speech at Rangoon University, Mr Obama made no direct call for the release of the remaining political prisoners. But he did speak of "a future where one prisoner of conscience is one too many".
Washington was insistent that Mr Obama's six-hour trip to Burma be confined to Rangoon, and not take in the new capital of Naypyidaw which was created by the former military regime.
But as well as announcing £107m (€132m) in aid to the country, he delighted his hosts with the diplomatic courtesy of referring to the country as "Myanmar" during his meeting with President Thein Sein. Both the US and Britain use Burma rather than Myanmar, the name given to the country by the former junta. (© Daily Telegraph, London)