Obama makes historic visit to Myanmar, meets Suu Kyi

Yangon, Nov 19 (IANS) Newly re−elected American President Barack Obama Monday visited Myanmar, becoming the first US president ever to make a trip to the Southeast Asian nation, where he met pro−democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. He said the country was on a remarkable journey of reform.

Obama's visit came as bilateral relations warm up following eased US sanctions in response to a wave of reforms which has been underway since President U Thein Sein took office March 30, 2011.

As part of his four−day Southeast Asian tour to Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia, which started Saturday, Obama flew over from Thailand after completing his first leg of the tour, reported Xinhua.

Myanmar is on a "remarkable journey" of reform that has much further to go, said Obama as he stressed that a desire for change had been met by an agenda of reform.

He said he was there to extend a "hand of friendship", reported BBC.

Obama met Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) and parliamentarian, at her lake−side residence in Myanmar's former capital of Yangon Monday.

The meeting took place after Obama met President U Thein Sein at the Yangon Region Parliament building.

Nobel laureate Suu Kyi described the friendship between Myanmar and the US as long−standing, and expressed her belief that the US would continue to support the democratic transition in Myanmar.

She said she and Obama have been able to discuss various concerns openly with regard to the relations between the two countries, saying that such relations can only progress in the right direction.

Obama said his visit marks the next step in US−Myanmar relations after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Myanmar last year to explore with Suu Kyi to begin a new relationship.

The US is responding to support Myanmar's reform, establishing rule of law, ending of ethnic conflicts and ensuring people of Myanmar have access to education, healthcare and economic opportunity, he added.

Earlier during a meeting, Obama and Thein Sein discussed bilateral relations and Myanmar's democratic reform.

Thein Sein stressed cooperation in revitalisation and development of democracy, human rights and capacity building, thanking all stakeholders for their efforts including Obama's far−sightedness and the US endeavours in bringing about improved relations between the two countries which once met with difficulties for over two decades.

He assured of moving Myanmar forward as what Obama expects.