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Hillary Clinton to visit Burma

President Barack Obama said the historic trip by the Secretary of State will take place next month after the US said it saw “flickers of progress” in the country which has been isolated for decades.

Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi waves her hand to supporters as she leaves the National League for Democracy party's headquarters after a meeting in Yangon, Myanmar today.
Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi waves her hand to supporters as she leaves the National League for Democracy party's headquarters after a meeting in Yangon, Myanmar today.
Image: Khin Maung Win/AP/Press Association Images

US SECRETARY OF State Hillary Clinton is to visit Burma next month, Barack Obama’s administration has revealed.

The planned trip is a signal of America’s commitment to the future of human rights in the Asia Pacific region, said the president when he announced the decision today.

This is the first time in more than 50 years a US secretary of state will visit the country, hinting that Burma’s decades-long isolation may come to an end soon.

Obama said the decision was made after seeing “flickers of hope” in the area in the past few weeks.

He said the dialogue between government and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has begun and that the Burmese parliament has taken “important steps on the path toward reform”.

A number of political prisoners have been released and media restrictions relaxed.

Some concerns remain, notably its relationship with North Korea and its treatment of minority groups, said Obama.

“But we want to seize what could be an historic opportunity for progress, and make it clear that if Burma continues to travel down the road of democratic reform, it can forge a new relationship with the United States of America,” he said during a speech at a summit in Bali, Indonesia.

Obama spoke with Suu Kyi directly yesterday, confirming that she supports American engagement to move the process forward.

However, Obama stressed that Burma will continue to face sanctions and isolation if it does not continue on the path of reform.

CBS reports that Suu Kyi lifted the National League for Democracy’s boycott on taking part in elections after meeting senior party members from across the country today.

Last year, the Burmese military junta ceded power after tightly-controlled elections. The new government, although still made up of former generals, has promised reforms.

In November 2010, Burma released Suu Kyi who had spent 15 of the preceding 21 years under house arrest.

Her party will now register formally and run in the next elections.

Read more:  Burma allows trade unions for first time since 1962>

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