Obama begins historic Myanmar visit

Nov 19 2012, 12:09 IST
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SummaryBarack Obama became the first serving U.S. president to visit Myanmar on Monday.

military that serves under civilians, and a constitution guarantees that only those who are elected by the people may govern.

Violence between majority Buddhists and the Rohingya Muslim minority in western Myanmar is a top concern, and Obama's aides said he would address the issue directly with Myanmar's leaders.

Myanmar considers the Rohingya Muslims to be illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh and does not recognise them as citizens. A Reuters investigation into the wave of sectarian assaults painted a picture of organised attacks against the Muslim community.

At least 167 people were killed in two periods of violence in Rakhine state in June and October this year.

Obama did not refer to this in the copy of his speech released to media ahead of delivery, but he will recall the sometimes violent history of the United States, its civil war and segregation, and say hatred could recede with time.

I stand before you today as president of the most powerful nation on Earth, with a heritage that would have once denied me the right to vote. So I believe deeply that this country can transcend its differences, and that every human being within these borders is a part of your nation's story, he will say.

Thein Sein, in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week, promised to tackle the root causes of the problem, the United Nations said.

Despite human rights concerns, the White House sees Myanmar as a legacy-building success story of Obama's policy of seeking engagement with U.S. enemies, a strategy that has made little progress with countries such as Iran and North Korea.

Obama's visit to Myanmar, sandwiched between stops in Thailand and Cambodia, also fits the administration's strategy of trying to lure China's neighbours out of Beijing's orbit.

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