In his first major foreign policy move after the election, President Obama will begin a three country tour in Southeast Asia where he will become the first sitting U.S. president to visit Burma. Long viewed as a pariah state, Burma (also known as Myanmar) was ruled by an iron-fisted military junta from 1962 until it began to embrace democratic and economic reforms in 2011.
The release of Aung San Suu Kyi in 2010, a democracy activist who was a political prisoner under house arrest in Burma for almost 15 years, was a watershed moment in the country’s transformation. The White House says Obama will “praise” Burma’s rapid democratic transition during his visit, but critics say the country still has a long way to go in creating a more civil society.
In September, Suu Kyi was welcomed to Washington at the Asia Society by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton where she discussed ongoing reforms in Burma.