Obama praises Burma over reforms
Barack Obama made history yesterday, becoming the first sitting US President to visit Burma and telling a packed audience that he had come to bear witness to a dramatic transformation he believes is underway.
Dismissing many observers, who said it was too early to reward Burma's nominally civilian government with such a high-profile and significant visit, Mr Obama said he believed the military dictatorship – whose hold on power had spanned five decades – had finally loosened its grip.
On his six-hour visit to the country – the most senior US official to last visit Burma was Richard Nixon, who was then Vice-President, in 1953 – Mr Obama met both President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. To the latter he bestowed a slightly awkward kiss in the garden of the lakeside home where she spent more than 15 years under house arrest.
"The most difficult time in any transition is when we think that success is in sight," said Ms Suu Kyi, who was released from detention two years ago.
The most significant part of Mr Obama's visit, before he left to attend a summit of South-east Asian leaders in Cambodia, was a speech he gave at the University of Rangoon. Of the once close relationship between the US and Burma, Mr Obama said that in recent decades the "two countries became strangers". But he referred to a comment he made after he was first elected, in which he said the US was ready to reach out to previously hostile governments who would "unclench" their fists.
"And over the last year and a half, a dramatic transition has begun... under President Thein Sein, the desire for change has been met by an agenda for reform," he said. "So today, I have come to keep my promise and extend the hand of friendship."
He also referred to the issue of political prisoners, saying a single prisoner of conscience was one too many. Although the authorities released several dozen more prisoners ahead of Mr Obama's visit, it is estimated that up to 300 are still behind bars.
- 3 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
- 4 Phil Neville backtracks on Tomas Rosicky 'I'd smash him' comments from Match of the Day 2
- 5 British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Paris attacks: Do not call Charlie Hebdo killers 'terrorists', BBC says
UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
Asteroid narrowly scrapes past Earth: how to watch the closest space rock for decades as it flies by
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Prince Philip set to be knighted by Australia: Celebrate by reading his greatest gaffes
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...
£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...
£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...