THE MYANMAR TIMES (Myanmar), BBC NEWS (UK), REUTERS
RANGOON - Barack Obama met with Myanmar’s President Thein Sein and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon on Monday, becoming the first serving U.S. president to visit the once pariah nation.
According to the Myanmar Times, Obama’s visit is a recognition at the highest level that the country, also known as Burma, has embarked on a process of political and economic reform -- although Reuters reports that the president tried to strike a balance between praising the government’s progress in shaking off military rule while at the same time pressing for more changes.
The newly reelected U.S. president was greeted by enthusiastic crowds in the country’s main city and former capital Rangoon (also know as Yangon).
Speaking to reporters after he met Burmese President Thein Sein for one hour at Yangon's old parliament building, Obama said that both he and Sein had "reached agreement for the development of democracy in Myanmar and for promotion of human rights to be aligned with international standards," in what he considered were the "first steps on what will be a long journey.”
Obama went on to meet democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi at the place where she spent years under house arrest. Suu Kyi thanked Obama for supporting the political reform process, while the U.S. president praised her for inspiring people not just in Myanmar, but around the world.
"Today marks the next step in a new chapter between the United States and Burma," he said, before the two embraced and Obama kissed Suu Kyi on the cheek.
According to BBC News, the highlight of the six-hour-visit was a speech at Rangoon University, which was at the heart of pro-democracy protests in 1988 that were violently suppressed by the military regime.
Addressing students, Obama said America would help to rebuild Burma's economy and could be a partner on its journey forward. The Myanmar Times sees this as an effort to increase focus on the Asia-Pacific region before the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, where Mr. Obama will meet Vladimir Putin, Wen Jiabao and other ASEAN and regional leaders.
The U.S. president and his team also made a brief stop at Shwedagon Pagoda, walking barefoot in the Rangoon landmark that has been at the heart of many key moments in the country's history.