Reporters and well-wishers greet Aung San Suu Kyi as she prepares to fly out
Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi left Yangon for Washington D.C. yesterday to start an 18-day landmark trip to the United States that could result in further concessions for a country still trying to escape its pariah status in the West.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner is due to receive a congressional gold medal and meet President Barack Obama just weeks ahead of a visit to the U.S. by Myanmar’s reformist President Thein Sein.
Aung Tun Thet, a member of the National Economic and Social Advisory Council, which works closely with the president, said that the Obama administration might be expected to further reward Myanmar after lifting investment and finance sanctions by presidential decree in July.
“The U.S. ban on Myanmar’s imports may be lifted during her historic trip,” he said.
Since an April by-election which saw a landslide victory for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, Myanmar has made a number of further steps towards democracy including the abolition of a pre-publication censorship board and an amnesty for more political prisoners.
“We could get big opportunities if Suu Kyi reveals to foreign investors details of Myanmar’s reforms,” said veteran politician and Member of Parliament Thu Wai, chairman of the Democratic Party.
Major concerns remain, however. There is concern over the violence in Rakhine state where minority Muslim Rohingyas have been involved in deadly clashes with Buddhists that have left dozens dead and thousands of homes destroyed. Allegations of ethnic cleansing and even genocide have been made by some Muslim countries.
Since clashes started in June, Suu Kyi has been criticized by those who say the opposition leader has been slow to defend the Rohingyas, a group the UN has labeled among the most persecuted minorities in the world.
Following her stay in the capital, Suu Kyi is scheduled to visit Myanmar communities in San Francisco and New York, a city where she lived during the late 1960s when she worked at the United Nations and spent time with Asia’s first UN secretary general, U Thant.
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