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Obama to Myanmar on historic visit: “I’ve come to extend a hand of friendship”

United
States President Barack Obama urged greater social and political
reforms from the long-closed nation of Myanmar during his historic
visit to the country on November 19, 2012.


Speaking
at Yangon University, after meetings with President U Thein Sein and
National League for Democracy chairperson Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Mr
Obama pledged the continuing support of the US provided Myanmar’s
democratisation process continues to move forward.


“Under
President Thein Sein, the desire for change has been met with an
agenda for reform. I’ve come to extend a hand of friendship,” Mr
Obama said, adding that he was keeping a promise he made to Myanmar
during his inauguration address in 2009.


“Over
the last year and a half, a dramatic transition has begun, as a
dictatorship of five decades has loosened its grip,” Mr Obama
said.


While
he lauded recent progress, Mr Obama remained realistic in the
challenges that Myanmar still must overcome. 


“The
road ahead will be marked by huge challenges, and there will be those
who resist the forces of change,” said Mr Obama, warning not to
extinguish the “flickers of progress that we have seen”
since the country began undertaking widespread reforms in 2011.


 “Fear
is not the natural state of civilised man,” said Mr Obama,
quoting from a piece written by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi while she was
under house arrest.  


Mr
Obama received the loudest applause when he addressed the need for
Myanmar to move forward as a complete nation, undivided by religious
or ethnic differences.


“No
process of reform will succeed without national reconciliation,”
Mr Obama said.


He
spoke about the fighting in Kachin state before addressing the
conflict in Rakhine state.


“For
too long, the people of this state, including ethnic Rakhine, have
faced crushing poverty and persecution. But there’s no excuse for
violence against innocent people, and the Rohingya hold within
themselves the same dignity as you do, and I do,” Mr Obama said.


Rakhine
State has been plagued by communal unrest between the Rakhine
Buddhist majority and Rohingya Muslim minority. Fighting in June and
the latest skirmishes last month left 110,000 displaced and nearly
180 dead.



Mr
Obama however stopped short of calling for citizenship for the
Rohingya, a move that may draw criticism from human rights groups
claiming that neither the Myanmar nor US government are going far
enough in the ethnic minority’s protection.


Source The
Myanmar Time: