Obama to visit Myanmar: White House confirms Asia trip details

President Obama, newly re-elected, will visit Southeast Asia this month. His itinerary will include stops in Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar. His visit to Myanmar will be viewed as an endorsement of that country's recent transformation. 

AP Photo/Khin Maung Win, File
This file photo shows Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meeting with Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon, Myanmar. President Barack Obama will embark on a trip to Southeast Asia and become the first U.S. president to visit Cambodia as well as Myanmar where he will hail the country’s shift to democracy after five decades of military rule.

President Barack Obama will visit Myanmar this month and meet both its president and its iconic opposition leader, marking a new milestone in U.S. efforts to promote democratic reforms in the once-isolated Southeast Asian country.

Obama will travel to Myanmar as part of a Nov. 17-20 tour of Southeast Asia that will include stops in Thailand and Cambodia, the White House said on Thursday as it confirmed details of his first international trip since voters gave him a second term in an election on Tuesday.

The visit to Myanmar, the first by a sitting U.S. president, will give Obama a chance to hold talks with President Thein Sein and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to encourage the country's "ongoing democratic transition," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Obama's presence in Myanmar, also known as Burma, will be the strongest endorsement so far from the international community of the country's transformation under the quasi-civilian government of Thein Sein, who took office in March 2011 after decades of military rule.

The visit will allow Obama to highlight what many see as a first-term foreign policy accomplishment in helping to push Myanmar's generals onto the path of democratic change. Obama will be in Myanmar on Nov. 19, according to a senior government source in Yangon.

He is going ahead with the trip despite recent sectarian violence in western Myanmar, which has drawn concern from the United States, the European Union and U.N. human rights investigators.

Some 89 people were killed in clashes between Buddhist Rakhines and minority Muslim Rohingyas, according to the latest official toll covering the last 10 days of October. Many thousands more have been displaced by the violence.

Sanctions eased 

The United States eased sanctions on Myanmar this year in recognition of the political and economic changes under way, and many U.S. companies are looking at starting operations in the country, located between China and India, with abundant resources and low-cost labour.

In November 2011, Hillary Clinton became the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Myanmar in more than 50 years.

Obama has sought to consolidate ties and reinforce U.S. influence across Asia in what officials have described as a policy "pivot" toward the region as wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down.

Myanmar grew close to China during decades of isolation, reinforced by Western sanctions over its poor human rights record, but it is now seeking to expand relations with the West.

Obama met Suu Kyi during her visit to the United States in September. Thein Sein was also in the United States around the same time to attend the opening of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, but the two leaders did not meet.

Suu Kyi, who spent years in detention under the military as the symbol of the pro-democracy movement and was elected to parliament in April, will be in India just before Obama's visit to Myanmar.

"She is leaving for India on a week-long visit on November 12, but I am not sure when exactly she will be back," Nyan Win, an official of her National League for Democracy party, told Reuters.

Obama will also be in Southeast Asia to attend meetings in Cambodia centered around an annual summit of the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which is usually extended to take in leaders of partner countries.

Preliminary details for this year show the event will run from Nov. 15 to Nov. 20 and the Cambodian government has said Obama will be in the capital, Phnom Penh, on Nov. 18. The U.S. administration has not confirmed that date.

The heads of government of China, JapanRussia and other countries are also expected in Cambodia for the meetings.

Obama will also visit Thailand while he is in Asia, the White House said.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.