Myanmar has a long way to go: Obama



Bangkok: US President Barack Obama on Sunday said his trip to Myanmar, the first ever by an American president, is not an endorsement of the 'Burmese Government' but an acknowledgement of the reform process underway in the country.

"I think it is important to recognise this is not an endorsement of the Burmese (Myanmar) government," Obama said.

"There is an articulated commitment to further political reforms," He said referring to Myanmar, a hitherto closed country which is gradually opening up. "This is an acknowledgement that there is a process underway, inside that country that... Nobody foresaw."

His remarks came up during a joint press conference today with Thai premier Yingluck Shinawatra when he was asked if his trip was 'premature' as stated by some human rights groups.

Obama felt if the US had to wait for a perfect democracy to visit the country, it would have to wait a long time.

He congratulated Myanmar on opening its doors and also to its commitment to democracy. "The country has a long way to go," he said.

Thailand is Obama's first stop on a three-day tour of Asia that will take him to Myanmar and Cambodia.

Obama said the cornerstone of work in Asia began with alliances. On the flareup of violence un Gaza, the president said the United States supported Israel's right to defend itself and added that Washington was actively working with all parties in the region to stop the missiles.

"Escalation in Gaza will make peace process harder," he warned. He noted that it was "no accident" that he planned his first foreign trip to Asia after his re-election.

He told reporters that the Asia-Pacific region will be crucial for creating jobs in the US and shaping its security and prosperity.

Yingluck said she had productive and wide ranging talks with Obama and said his visit was a perfect occasion for celebrating 180 years of Thai-US ties. Thailand is the oldest ally of the US.

"I express my firm commitment to promote and protect democracy as it will lead to economic success," she said, adding that democracy is fundamental for economic growth. Obama said democracy is not something that is static, "it is something we have to constantly work on."

PTI