President Obama’s Trip to Burma (Myanmar): Aung San Suu Kyi, University of Yangon (2012)


Published on Dec 26, 2012

The Obama administration initially continued longstanding American reticence in dealing with Burma after taking over in January 2009, preferring to prioritize broader security threats like Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan. Susan E. Rice, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, called the junta government’s hold over Myanmar, known in the West as Burma, “one of the most intractable challenges for the global community”. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton claimed that the Obama administration was “looking at what steps we might take that might influence the current Burmese government and…looking for ways that we could more effectively help the Burmese people”, though she echoed Rice’s pessimism in noting the junta’s historical isolationism and disregard for economic sanctions.

At the urging of Aung San Suu Kyi and the US’s East Asian partners, the US held the first formal meetings with the junta in late in 2009.

In November 2011, Obama spoke with Aung San Suu Kyi on the phone where they agreed to a visit by Secretary of State Clinton to Burma. Obama met with Burmese President Thein Sein at the Sixth East Asia Summit. Clinton made a two-day visit from December 1, 2011. Barack Obama visited Burma on November 18, 2012, becoming the first sitting U.S. President to do so. Obama also visited Aung San Suu Kyi in her home.

Aung San Suu Kyi MP AC (born 19 June 1945) is a Burmese opposition politician and chairperson of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Burma. In the 1990 general election, the NLD won 59% of the national votes and 81% (392 of 485) of the seats in Parliament. She had, however, already been detained under house arrest before the elections. She remained under house arrest in Burma for almost 15 of the 21 years from 20 July 1989 until her most recent release on 13 November 2010, becoming one of the world’s most prominent political prisoners.

Suu Kyi received the Rafto Prize and the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1990 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. In 1992 she was awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding by the government of India and the International Simón Bolívar Prize from the government of Venezuela. In 2007, the Government of Canada made her an honorary citizen of that country; at the time, she was one of only four people ever to receive the honour. In 2011, she was awarded the Wallenberg Medal. On 19 September 2012, Aung San Suu Kyi was also presented with the Congressional Gold Medal, which is, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour in the United States.

On 1 April 2012, her party, the National League for Democracy, announced that she was elected to the Pyithu Hluttaw, the lower house of the Burmese parliament, representing the constituency of Kawhmu; her party also won 43 of the 45 vacant seats in the lower house. The election results were confirmed by the official electoral commission the following day.

Suu Kyi is the third child and only daughter of Aung San, considered to be the father of modern-day Burma.

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