Obama walks a fine line with Myanmar president's visit

By REUTERS
May 20, 2013 02:21

WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama will walk a fine line between fostering a US ally in China's backyard and trying to defend human rights when the president of Myanmar becomes the first head of his country to visit the White House in 47 years on Monday.

Rights groups and some US lawmakers fear Obama has moved too quickly since forging a dramatic breakthrough in relations in 2011 after half a century of military rule in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

US officials argue that reforms by President Thein Sein's quasi-military government - freeing democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and hundreds of political prisoners, scrapping censorship, legalizing trade unions and protests - are transformative and deserve support from Obama, who confirmed the end of Myanmar's pariah status with the West with a landmark visit last November.

However, ethnic or sectarian violence, particularly in the western state of Rakhine, has worsened since Washington started easing sanctions, and a Reuters special report published last week found apartheid-like policies segregating minority Muslims in prison-like ghettos there.


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