Today (May/20th/13)- becomes the first Myanmar president to be welcomed to the White House in almost 47 years, crowning a dramatic diplomatic rehabilitation for his nation after years
of international isolation. The trip follows Obama’s visit to Myanmar — the first by a sitting U.S. president.
Thein Sein, who took office as a nominal civilian in 2011, surprised even cynics by freeing hundreds of political prisoners, easing censorship and letting long-detained opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi enter parliament.
Human rights activists and Myanmar campaigners have sharply criticized the administration for inviting Thein Sein, arguing it sends the wrong message and wastes leverage to press for further democratic change. The administration says it is important to signal U.S. support for his reform agenda, likely still opposed by military hardliners.
Today’s landmark meeting comes at a critical point for Thein Sein and the people of Myanmar. From now until the next general elections in 2015, Myanmar’s reform leaders will face a range of consequential decision points that will test their capacity and resolve.
Myanmar has been rewarded by relaxation of tough economic sanctions, and Thein Sein will be addressing U.S. businessmen keen to capitalize on the opening of one of Asia’s few untapped markets.
“Relations have greatly improved thanks to the policies of President Obama,” he told a forum on Sunday. “For our political reforms, we also need more economic development.”
Thein Sein born 20 April 1945 is a Burmese politician and former military commander who has been President of Burma (Myanmar) since March 2011. He was the Prime Minister from 2007 until 2011 and considered by some as a moderate and reformist in the post-junta government.