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Barack Obama on historic Myanmar visit

Barack Obama on historic Myanmar visit

Washington: Being the first sitting American president to visit Myanmar, Barack Obama on Monday set out on a historic trip to the once-pariah nation, also called Burma.

Obama is due to meet Thein Sein, as well as opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi before flying to Cambodia later Monday.

On way to Burma from Thailand on Monday morning, President Barack Obama said he was visiting the nation to "extend the hand of friendship" to a nation moving from persecution to peace.

The President said, "Instead of being repressed, the right of people to assemble together must now be fully respected.. Instead of being stifled, the veil of media censorship must continue to be lifted. As you take these steps, you can draw on your progress."

Obama’s visit marks a significant shift in the relations between Myanmar and the US.

The president's Asia tour also marks his formal return to the world stage after months mired in a bruising re-election campaign.

Myanmar's rapid adoption of democratic reforms has been rewarded by the US as it lifted some economic sanctions.

Obama has appointed a permanent ambassador to the country, and pledged greater investment if Myanmar continues to progress following a half-century of military rule.

Some human rights groups 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 said from Thailand on Sunday that his visit is not an endorsement of the government in Myanmar, but an acknowledgment that dramatic progress is underway and it deserves a global spotlight.

. The White House says Obama will express his concern for the ongoing ethnic tensions in Myanmar's western Rakhine state, where more than 110,000 people — the vast majority of them Muslims known as Rohingya — have been displaced.

The UN has called the Rohingya — who are widely reviled by the Buddhist majority in Myanmar — among the world's most persecuted people.

The White House says Obama will press the matter Monday with Thein Sein, along with demands to free remaining political prisoners as the nation transitions to democracy.

The president will cap his trip to Myanmar with a speech at Rangoon University, the center of the country's struggle for independence against Britain and the launching point for many pro-democracy protests. The former military junta shut the dormitories in the 1990s fearing further unrest and forced most students to attend classes on satellite campuses on the outskirts of town.

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