Obama to Myanmar: America 'is with you'

2012-11-19 12:03
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and US President Barack Obama meet in Yangon, Myanmar. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and US President Barack Obama meet in Yangon, Myanmar. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Yangon — In a historic breakthrough, President Barack Obama on Monday stepped onto the soil of long-shunned Myanmar and into the flag-waving embrace of its once repressed people. "You gave us hope," he declared, the first US president to visit what not long ago had been an international outcast.

Tens of thousands of people poured into the streets to welcome Obama to a place still learning its basic freedoms.

Speaking to a national audience from the University of Yangon, Obama offered a "hand of friendship" and a lasting US commitment, yet a warning as well. He said the new civilian government must nurture democracy or watch it, and US support, disappear.

The visit to Myanmar was the centrepiece of a four-day trip to Southeast Asia that began in Bangkok and will end on Tuesday in Cambodia, where Obama will attend an East Asia Summit.

Obama seemed to revel in the history of what he was witnessing in Myanmar — a nation shedding years of military rule, and a relationship between two nations changing fast.

"This remarkable journey has just begun," he said.

Swelling crowds

In a notable detour from US government policy, the president referred to the nation as Myanmar, the preferred name of the former military regime and the new government, rather than Burma, the old name and the one favoured by democracy advocates and the United States government.

On his first trip abroad since his re-election earlier this month, Obama got a warm welcome in Myanmar, hugging long-time opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and lauding her as a personal inspiration.

Crowds swelled at every intersection, yelling affectionately for Obama and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

"You are the legend hero of our world," one banner read.

Obama acknowledged Myanmar's many democratic shortcomings but said: "The United States of America is with you."

Obama spoke at a university that was once the centre of government opposition, and his message was as much a call for Myanmar to continue in its promising steps as it was a tribute to democracy in general. He held up the United States as an example of its triumph and its imperfections.

Suu Kyi visit


Coinciding with the president's visit, the government of Myanmar announced further human rights steps to review prisoner cases and de-escalate conflicts in ethnic regions of the country.

But Obama urged even more, calling for a government where, as he put it, "those in power must accept constraints".

"The flickers of progress that we have seen must not be extinguished," Obama said in an address televised to the nation.

Obama paid a personal call to the revered democracy advocate, Suu Kyi, at the lakeside compound where she spent much of the last two decades under house arrest.

The house, a colonial-style, grey stucco home, has become synonymous with the movement that brought about democratisation reforms.

Suu Kyi echoed Obama's tone with an admonition of her own, one that could have been directed at her own ruling party as much as to the United States:

Some sanctions lifted

"The most difficult time in any transition is when we think that success is in sight," she said. "Then we have to be very careful that we're not lured by the mirage of success."

Earlier, with President Thein Sein at his side, Obama said the journey was just starting. "But," Obama said, "we think a process of democratic and economic reform here in Myanmar that has been begun by the president is one that can lead to incredible development opportunities."

In a first-ever scene, Air Force One flew over Myanmar's lush countryside, which was dotted with gold-spired temples, rice patties and fish farms. As the plane approached Yangon, the landscape became more crowded with homes, including many clusters of shacks.

Obama walked down the steps of his aircraft with Clinton, a shared image done in recognition of their last trip together. Clinton plans to leave the diplomatic post soon.

In an extraordinary scene for Myanmar, huge crowds of people lined the streets of Yangon to watch Obama's motorcade pass, including hundreds of students wearing matching school uniforms of white shirts and dark green sarongs. Many held up iPads and smart phones to take photos of the speeding motorcade.

Obama has rewarded Myanmar's rapid adoption of democratic reforms by lifting some economic penalties. The president has appointed a permanent ambassador to the country, and pledged greater investment if Myanmar continues to progress following a half-century of military rule.

Dramatic progress

The trip to Myanmar came against a backdrop of criticism from human rights groups that say Myanmar's government, which continues to hold hundreds of political prisoners and is struggling to contain ethnic violence, hasn't done enough to earn a personal visit from Obama.

The president's response: Progress this dramatic deserves a global spotlight.

"When I took office as president, I sent a message to those governments who ruled by fear: We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your first," Obama said. "... So today, I have come to keep my promise, and extend the hand of friendship."

Read more on:    hillary clinton  |  thein sein  |  barack obama  |  aung san suu kyi  |  myanmar  |  us
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

BMW drift battle: M235i vs. speedway bike

Watch this insane drift contest with four-times dirt-track World champion Karl Maier riding a speedway bike against a BMW M235i.

 
 

Men24.com

Want to start talking dirty?
Everyday struggles of naturally skinny guys
And this year's Miss Bumbum title goes to...
How to maintain your mo, bro

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

20% off ALL TV Series

Choose from 1000’s of the hottest TV Series . While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Enjoy the view because as from tomorrow you are going to need to come back down to earth and join the party. In the meantime use...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.