Pres. Obama first-time visit to Burma

by Ilgin Karlidag

MCT Campus

After securing a second term in the White House, President Barack Obama will become the first U.S. President to visit Myanmar, also known as Burma, the White House announced last Thursday.

The historic visit to Burma is part of a tour from Nov. 17 to 20, including trips to Thailand and Cambodia, in which Obama will attend an annual economic summit meeting, and promote political reforms and investments.

Obama will meet Burmese President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest for nearly two decades by the Burmese junta until her release in 2010 and recent election to the Burmese parliament.

For decades, Burma was ruled by a military junta accused of human rights violations, such as forcing children into labor and suppressing popular dissent, according to the BBC.

In March 2011, Sein, a former general and prime minister of the junta, was installed in the new government.

The U.S. held sanctions on Burma during its military rule, but recently eased the sanctions in an effort to push for political and economic change, and many U.S. companies are open for investments in the country, Reuters reported.

President Obama’s trip to Burma is also an attempt to counter the influence of China, the country’s neighbor, which financially supported the Burmese military junta during its last years of rule, according to the New York Times.

Another issue to be discussed during Obama’s trip is the release of more than 300 political prisoners in Burma, according to BBC.

“Ultimately, Burma’s reforms will succeed or fail based on the efforts of the Burmese people themselves,” Special Assistant to the President Samantha Power said in a White House blog. “President Obama’s policy approach has been to support reform and those championing it—an investment in Burma’s future that the President will personally reinforce later this month.”