Suu Kyi to meet Obama in Washington for
first time as Myanmar leader
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[September 14, 2016]
By Timothy Mclaughlin and Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Myanmar's Aung San
Suu Kyi meets with President Barack Obama on Wednesday in her first
visit to the United States since her party won a sweeping victory in
last year's election, capping a decades-long journey from political
prisoner to national leader.
With Suu Kyi no longer an opposition figure, the United States is
weighing a further easing of sanctions against Myanmar, formerly known
as Burma, as Obama looks to normalize relations with a country
Washington shunned when it was ruled by a military junta.
Suu Kyi is also expected to meet with Vice President Joe Biden,
Secretary of State John Kerry and senior members of Congress.
"Before it was very much encouraging her (Suu Kyi) and supporting her in
her role as someone pushing for increased democracy. Now they (U.S.
officials) are meeting someone in charge of the government," said Murray
Hiebert, a Southeast Asia expert at Washington's Center for Strategic
and International Studies.
Obama is expected to consult with Suu Kyi on whether to further ease
U.S. sanctions to help investment and democratic transition in her
country, the White House said.
The United States eased some sanctions against Myanmar earlier this year
to support political reform but maintained most of its economic
restrictions with an eye toward penalizing those it views as hampering
the democratically elected government.
The military stepped back from direct control of the country in 2011
after 49 years in power, but maintains a commanding role in politics,
controlling 25 percent of seats in parliament and leading three key
Suu Kyi is barred from being president under the military-drafted
constitution because her sons are not Myanmar citizens. She serves
instead as the country's de facto leader by holding the positions of
foreign minister and state counsellor.
She faces the challenge of guiding Myanmar's relationship with the
United States and neighboring power China, which enjoyed a preferential
relationship with the military government.
[to top of second column]
President Barack Obama and opposition politician Aung San Suu Kyi
hold a press conference after their meeting at her residence in
Yangon, November 14, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
"The U.S.-Myanmar dynamic, it is not a close strategic relationship
to the exclusion of China but introducing more balance," said
Richard Horsey, an independent political analyst in Yangon.
There are also formidable obstacles at home for the popular Nobel
Suu Kyi has been criticized by rights groups for failing to address
the plight of the country's stateless Rohingya Muslim minority.
About 125,000 remain confined to squalid camps on the country's
western coast following violence between Buddhists and Muslims in
Last week, a commission Suu Kyi set up and charged with making
recommendations on the situation and which is led by former U.N.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, traveled to Myanmar for the first
"It is clear that in setting up the Annan Commission, Suu Kyi is not
merely looking for some diplomatic cover, but is making Rakhine
State a priority and is serious about taking steps to address the
situation," said Horsey.
(Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Peter Cooney)
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