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Myanmar trip 'not endorsement' of regime: Obama

Posted on Nov 19, 10:54AM | IANS

US President Barack Obama has defended his decision to visit Myanmar, calling his trip to the Asian country an "acknowledgment" of progress made towards the establishment of a democratic state, RIA Novosti reported.

"This is not an endorsement of the Burmese government," Obama said in the Thai capital on the eve of his visit.

"This is an acknowledgement that there is a process underway inside that country that even a year and a half, two years ago, nobody foresaw."

Obama will be the first US president to visit the country, and his trip comes after the south Asian state's military rulers introduced democratic reforms.

Obama also said his decision had been guided by talks with Myanmar democracy advocate Aung Sung Suu Kyi, who visited him at the White House in September.

Suu Kyi warned last week, however, that Myanmar had "not yet achieved democracy".

"I'm not somebody who thinks the US should stand on the sidelines and not get its hands dirty when there's an opportunity for us to encourage the better impulses inside a country," Obama said.

Human rights groups have said that despite recent releases, some 300 political prisoners remain behind bars in Myanmar and that Obama's visit comes too soon.

Obama's six-hour visit will see him speak at Yangon University, a former hotbed of anti-junta dissent.