IN AN HISTORIC trip to a long shunned land, President Barack Obama on Monday showered praise and promises of more US help to Burma if the Asian nation keeps building its new democracy. “Our goal is to sustain the momentum,” he declared with pride as the first US president to visit here.
Tens of thousands of people lined the streets as Obama packed in diplomacy and soaked in his steamy surroundings. He shared words and an affectionate hug with the Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy activist who endured years of house arrest to gain freedom and become a lawmaker.
“We are confident that this support will continue through the difficult years that lie ahead,” she said of the help from America, Obama at her side. “The most difficult time in any transition is when you think that success is in sight. We have to be very careful that we’re not lured by a mirage of success.”
Obama told her that if the nation’s leaders keep making true reforms, “we will do everything we can to ensure success.”
The president was then on his way to give a televised speech at the University of Yangon, in which he would deliver the same message. Obama planned to tell his audience that the United States is ready to “extend the hand of friendship” now that Burma has unclenched its fist of iron rule.
“Instead of being repressed, the right of people to assemble together must now be fully respected,” the president said in speech excerpts released by the White House. “Instead of being stifled, the veil of media censorship must continue to be lifted. As you take these steps, you can draw on your progress.”