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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

President Obama To Visit Burma

Matt Pressberg |
November 8, 2012 | 2:05 p.m. PST

Executive Producer

President Obama will follow Hillary Clinton's visit to Burma with his own. (State Department/Wikimedia Commons)
President Obama will follow Hillary Clinton's visit to Burma with his own. (State Department/Wikimedia Commons)
President Obama plans to make a historic visit to Burma later this month, becoming the first ever U.S. president to travel to the long-isolated country which has only recently taken steps to open its society.

As the BBC reports, President Obama will stop in the country formerly known as Myanmar as part of his trip to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Cambodia. There, he will meet with Burma's president, Thein Sein, as well as its opposition leader, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi who was recently freed from years of house arrest and elected to parliament this year.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had previously been the highest-ranking U.S. official to go to Burma when she visited Suu Kyi last December.

While Secy. Clinton's visit and the U.S.'s appointment of a full ambassador to Burma have been major milestones marking the real improvement of U.S.-Burmese relations, which fits in as part of President Obama's desired "pivot" toward the Asia-Pacific region, the president's appearance in the capital city of Naypyidaw is the clearest signifier yet that relations are coming closer to full normalization.

The presidential visit has been seen as  reward for the Burmese government's move toward a more democratic society, its continued heavy-handedness with regard to ethnic minorities has some calling Obama's trip premature. As Australia's Sydney Morning Herald reports:

"The director of Burma Campaign UK, Mark Farmaner, said Mr Obama was rushing to 'normalise relations' with Burma, 'but Burma isn't a normal country, it is not a democracy and still has one of the worst human rights records in the world.'

In March 2011 nearly half a century of military rule ended when a quasi-civilian government took power and initiated sweeping changes. The US and EU suspended sanctions on Burma this year in recognition of the political and economic changes.

Though media and labour laws have been relaxed and hundreds of political prisoners released, the military is still responsible for widespread human rights abuses and many fear democratic progress might be reversed at any time.

In recent weeks there has been renewed violence aimed at Muslim Rohingya people in the west of the country, with hundreds killed and tens of thousands displaced."

President Obama's visit to Southeast Asia is scheduled for November 17 through November 20.

Read more of Neon Tommy's coverage of President Obama here.

Reach Executive Producer Matt Pressberg here.



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