An Extraordinary Moment: Obama Makes History in Burma
Image Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

An Extraordinary Moment: Obama Makes History in Burma


RANGOON — At about 9:40am local time today, Air Force One flew over lush late-monsoon farmland and gold-leafed pagodas before touching down at the unlikeliest of destinations in the first visit to Burma by a sitting U.S. president.

During a whirlwind six-hour trip, Barack Obama met with both sides of Burma’s evaporating political divide – reformist President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi – and expressed cautious optimism about Burma’s future during a speech at Rangoon University, a focal point for Burma’s independence leaders and later for many opponents of the five decades of  military rule.

“I recognize that this is just the first steps on what will be a long journey,” the U.S. president said alongside his Burmese counterpart, Thein Sein, at the former parliament in Rangoon. “But we think that a process of democratic reform and economic reform in Myanmar … can lead to incredible development opportunities here.”

Part encouragement, part self-fulfilling prophecy as the U.S. rolls back sanctions, Obama’s delicate balancing act of caution and optimism not only points to the work Burma’s government still has to do, but also recognizes the time it has taken to come this far. In fact, a succession of U.S. presidents have, at least in part, helped Burma reach this point through a careful calibrated strategy of targeted sanctions and incentives.

“Two years ago, it was an unimaginable thing,” Tin Maung Than, the head of Rangoon-based policy think-tank Myanmar Egress, said of Obama’s visit.

As someone who has worked closely with Thein Sein’s government, he says that the current period of rapid reforms is a made-in-Burma process as reforms have been initiated at lightening pace in recent months.

The part that the U.S. has played – amid the still simmering arguments of carrots and sticks – remains a question of debate. So too the role played by Obama.

In the week leading up to the president’s visit, senior administration officials have been quick to attribute credit to the White House for Burma’s rapid, recent progress.

Jim Placzek
December 3, 2012 at 13:29

By now the whole dialogue between Jean Paul and John Chan has gone of the tracks and should be halted by the moderator.  Irrelevant and racist personal attacks.

December 3, 2012 at 01:49

Backing a social marxist like suu kyi is easy
Soros backs her and so does the Agenda 21

November 28, 2012 at 11:09

Living here in Thailand, born in the Vietnam war era (I am American) and observing what's going on in SE Asia, what I believe "reforms" boils down to is a long coastline of resorts hotels cheap housing and cheap sex industry for baby boomers planning their retirements and people wanting cheap vacations in these economic hard times–I foresee hotels and resorts and construction lining the Andaman Coast up from Phuket until it reaches the tip of Myanmar/Burma. That's reform all right, it's just been done in increments. First, destroy all anti-Imperialist movements in Vietnam and then the genocide/"revolution" of Cambodia, then break the will and pride of the SE Asians and take over control build exploit and build build build make hotels resorts cheap food for Westerns cheap prostitutes—horrible really. 

November 28, 2012 at 09:26

John Chan wrote: "Using “the bygone is bygone” to cover up the Whiteman’s ugly past, so they can claim moral high ground again? Don’t you think it is rather shameless?".
I think it has less to do with covering up an ugly past as it has to do with understanding that saying the following doesn't help anyone.
"My Grand pappy killed your Grand pappy and therefore I need to kill you." "We dones want the land back that we stolz from the ________ nd youz stolz from us". etc etc etc.
Other than that, what ever. (man, I really love that expression, but only because the way the Yank used it first on me and the sarcasm was dripping off his tongue". At the time he pissed me off, but with hindsight, it is a funny saying.

November 27, 2012 at 06:05

Great counter-arguments, Jean-Paul. You prove  that a smart decent human being always win over a bad program with full of making stuffs  like John Chan.

November 26, 2012 at 00:18

@ John Chan You are right, I should be promoting the french products because I am not ashamed, this was simply my mistake. In this case all you need to do is look at France's newest fighter the Rafale.
This was a fighter developed by the French internal military command and not any cheap rip offs of russian design. In fact India has recently signed a deal to purchase over 100 Rafale aircraft from France, they even chose the Rafale over the Eurofighter typhoon. How many countries are purchasing chinese J-10 junk? Oh thats right no country would want such a cheap toxic rip off when they can get the real thing. 
See John Chan, France is already doing its part to help those poorer nations build a strong military to counter any bully aggression from China. It is only a matter of time before nearly all of China's neighbours are armed to the teeth with western military products, seems like your pathetic dream of asian hegemony is already coming to an end.
By gone is by gone theory is used simply because it works to bring peace and prosperity to our world. No need to bring up 100 year old events, only china is doing that because it is a cry baby and is full of jealousy and fear of the west.

John Chan
November 25, 2012 at 11:10

Making up narrative to white wash their humiliation and embarrassment is a French forte, like the best glory the French has is Napoleon who was nothing but a disaster, no wonder you need the fabrications like the West centered Wikipedia to pop up you self-esteem.
Eurofighter is not a French product, are you saying French products inferior to the English and German’s products and you are ashamed to present them here?
Using “the bygone is bygone” to cover up the Whiteman’s ugly past, so they can claim moral high ground again? Don’t you think it is rather shameless?

John Chan
November 25, 2012 at 10:57

Only China appreciates Burma’s teak and jade and will pay high prices for them, there is nothing in Burma that the American wants, not even the oil. American does like teak and jade, and they have plenty oil themselves, Burma’s oil is American’s competitor.
The only value Burma as well the Philippines and Vietnam have for the American is a pawn to contain China. Burma’s future closely depends on China; it is a fate that Burma, the Philippines and Vietnam cannot escape regardless how many Chinese students and the dependents of rich “naked” CPC functionaries in the USA. It is better for the Burma to distinguish reality from hype, so that it would not be sold down the drain by the unscrupulous snakeoil salesman.

November 25, 2012 at 07:39

@ John Chan and other CCP brainwashed chinese
Please John Chan do not talk about the battle of Dien bien phu, I do not want to compare the military records of China and France….it would simply humiliate your country too much, I will instead save you the embarassment.
Hey John Chan why dont you look at how the French Battalion faired in the korean war against the chinese human wave army? Go have a look at the wikipedia article where french forces encountered the chinese in Chongwon, they not only held those pathetic chinese you call "soldiers" back, but they managed to kill 2000 of them while only 47 french were killed. Simply look at the article to see the humilation, all china had was cheap russian supplied arms.
I think france with its army of eurofighter jets could very easily protect and poor asian nation it needs to in order to contain that bully you call a nation. Eurofighter will prove to be too advanced for your cheap, counterfeit J-10. A sad clone of a 1980s derived russian warplane.
John Chan why dont you try and fix your overpolluted nation before you go on about the history of the white man? Or are you simply so insecure that all you can do is point to events that happened over 100 years ago, in order to gloss over china's shortcomings??

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