US President Barack Obama extends the hand of friendship to Myanmar
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US President Barack Obama extends the hand of friendship to Myanmar

Yangon : Myanmar | Nov 19, 2012 at 6:53 AM PST
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Aung San Suu Kyi  meets barack obama

President Barack Obama has become the first sitting US president to visit Myanmar, the former pariah state, and held talks with reformist President Thein Sein as well as Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader.

One of the objectives of the visit is to counter the increasing clout of China in the region and, for this, the US government plans to have 60 percent of the US naval forces based in the region by 2020.

He gave an affectionate hug to Aung San Suu Kyi who had to endure many years of house arrest.

Myanmar was the second stop for President Obama in the course of his three-country tour of Asia.

The trip is viewed as a landmark trip and he flew in into Rangoon – his visit is aimed at encouraging a string of political reforms in the country.

Obama feels this trip would mark the beginning of a new chapter in the US-Myanmar relationship.

Praising the efforts of Sein, who was responsible for much of his country's transition to democracy, Obama said that the reforms in Myanmar could unleash “the incredible potential of this beautiful country.”

During a speech at the University of Rangoon, Obama acknowledged the shortcomings in Myanmar and assured that the US would always be at its side because the US would be friends with any nation that respects the rights of its people and abides by the international law.

To prove the point, Washington has announced that it had lifted a ban on the import of goods from Myanmar.

The welcome that was given to Obama was a colorful one with thousands of people thronging the streets waving the American flags.

The crowds kept swelling at every intersection and they yelled affectionately for the president as well as the Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The visit of Obama in Myanmar was a relatively short one – only of six hours duration – and he did not visit the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, but he did visit the Shwedagon Pagoda, a landmark of Rangoon.

During his speech in the Rangoon University, Obama called for an end to communal violence between Muslims and Buddhists in Rakhine state.

The violence has left more than 100,000 people displaced and most of them are Muslim Rohingyas who have become outcasts in society – they are facing severe discrimination.

His interaction with the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was at her lakeside home where she had been under house arrest for years.

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prabirghose is based in Nāshik, Maharashtra, India, and is an Anchor for Allvoices.
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