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Thein Sein Receives Hero’s Welcome in Rangoon

Supporters
of Burmese President Thein Sein hold posters as they await his
arrival at Rangoon International Airport on Monday. (Photo: The
Irrawaddy)

More
than a thousand people welcomed Burmese President Thein Sein upon his
return from the United States on Monday morning in a rare gesture of
popular support for a leading politician in the military-dominated
nation.

“We
love our president,” bellowed the crowd outside Rangoon
International Airport. Huge posters with the former general’s image
bearing the slogan “We support you! Congratulations, Mr. President”
were held by supporters

Those
present included affluent businessmen, members of political parties,
garment factory workers and students. Some estimated that as many as
2,000 people could have been among the horde.


“We
are glad that sanctions have been lifted. Before, we could only
export our products to our neighboring countries like Bangladesh,
Malaysia, Japan, Vietnam and so on,” said Dr. Aung Win, deputy
chairman of the Myanmar Garment Association.

“Now
we in the textile industry can export more to the United States too.
That’s why we came here to welcome the president.”

Aung
Win said that he brought around 300 garment factory workers to
welcome Thein Sein, but that 10,000 or 20,000 people could easily
have come.

During
Thein Sein’s trip, which started on Sept. 24, the Obama
administration lifted import sanctions against Burma as a reward for
tentative democratic reforms since the 67-year-old took office in
March last year.

Opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi has also been traveling in the United States
and backed Naypyidaw’s calls for the lifting of the trade
restrictions.

Maj
Zaw Htay, the director of the President’s Office, told The
Irrawaddy on Monday afternoon that “the president’s trip was a
success.”

“The
president got a chance to explain the changes in our country in front
of the international community,” he said. “Our President’s
Office was proud of his success.”

US
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the lifting of sanctions
one day before Thein Sein addressed the UN General Assembly in New
York on Thursday.
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