Bangkok, Nob 18: US President Barack Obama said on Sunday that his visit to Myanmar starting on Monday was not an endorsement of that country's repressive regime but rather an acknowledgement that the latter was making a good progress on the path of reform.
Addressing a news conference jointly with Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to kick off his three-country tour of Asia, Obama said that there was no denying that Burma (Myanmar's former name) had arrived and they were where they needed to be. Cambodia will be the third stop in the US President's itinerary. Obama is set to participate in the East Asia Summit.
Obama arrived in Thailand on Sunday on his first overseas tour after winning a second term as the President of the USA and his trip is aimed at expanding his country's economic and military base in the Asia-Pacific region.
Human rights activists slammed the President's visit to Myanmar, the first by an American head of state, saying Washington should not acknowledge Myanmar before it completely emerges from the long-entrenched authoritarian military junta rule. They cited the rising ethnic violence carried out against the nation's Muslim minority that claimed hundreds and displaced 10,000.
The Obama Administration, however, has relied heavily on Myanmar's commitment to reform and appointed an ambassador to the country in June. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had also visited the country last December.
Clinton, who also accompanied Obama in Bangkok, is set to fly with him to Rangoon, the historic former capital of Myanmar on Monday. Clinton, who said she will quit her post as soon as a successor is found, is on her final foreign trip with President Obama, sources in White House said.
Speaking on his Myanmar visit, President Obama said that if the USA decided to wait till Myanmar achieved a perfect democracy, then it would mean waiting for a long time. He said one of the main goals of his current trip to the Southeast Asian country was to highlight the progress that had been made and to underline the fact that more progress was needed in the future.
Obama visited Thailand octogenarian King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who is seriously ill at this moment, and also the Wat Pho Royal Monastery before joining Yingluck in a dinner at the Government House. He stressed Thailand's 180-year-old relationship with the US which made it the oldest ally of Washington in Asia.