Tuesday, October 25, 2016
The Myanmar Times
The Myanmar Times

Myanmar MPs laud Obama visit from capital

US President Barack Obama addresses the Union of Myanmar during his historic speech at Yangon University Monday, November 19, 2012. (AFP)US President Barack Obama addresses the Union of Myanmar during his historic speech at Yangon University Monday, November 19, 2012. (AFP)

Hluttaw representatives from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and National League for Democracy (NLD) have applauded President Obama’s decision to visit Myanmar and the content of his speech at Yangon University.

Following the euphoria of the six-hour visit on Monday, November 19, most representatives managed to make it back to Nay Pyi Taw the following day to attend the seventh day of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw session, which concluded on Friday, November 23.

Most discussion focused on the revised budget for 2012-13 and corruption in government ministries, with U Thein Nyunt proposing that state newspapers be privatised to get rid of graft in the Ministry of Information.

A tired-looking Daw Aung San Suu Kyi returned on an early morning flight to the capital, and used the lunch break of the session to convene a weekly meeting with fellow NLD representatives that had been delayed a day by President Obama’s visit.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi declined to comment on the president’s trip or respond to comments by activists-in-exile that she had initially opposed the visit.

But other NLD representatives were effusive in their praise for President Obama.

“I only have one word to say about his whole visit: ‘wow,’” said U Win Htein, the Pyithu Hluttaw representative for Meiktila.

“Some thought that his visit is still premature but the president is quite busy so it is a very rare chance for him to visit; that opportunity can be lost. So we should welcome the opportunity and it will welcome our endeavours towards a future democratic country,” he said.

U Win Htein said that while the president’s remarks with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi were “understandable”, the Yangon University address was impressive.

“He related how important Rangoon University is because the majority of our national leaders came from the university. That’s why we must improve to lift the standards of Rangoon University.”

NLD representative U Min Thu from Ottarathiri said the visit “will give more strength and more encouragement for the promotion of democracy because he came here personally”.

He said the most important point President Obama made was about political prisoners, and that “even one prisoner in jail is one too many”.

“For example, even though some were released yesterday morning (Monday, November 19), there are still about 40 prisoners in Mandalay’s Obo jail. Some are Shan and Kachin, while others are Muslims who were arrested in Kyaukse religious violence in 2003,” he said.

“All prisoners should be released.”

U Win Than, the USDP representative for Thapaung in Ayeyarwady Region, said the visit was “excellent” and offered some clarity on direction US-Myanmar relations will take in the future, particularly on sanctions.

“I think everyone and at every level supported the visit, across many communities,” said the representative, who was interviewed on Skynet’s live coverage of the visit a number of times on Monday, November 19.

He welcomed President Obama’s focus on the importance of checks and balances, particularly the importance of civilian control over the military and judicial checks on the president.

“He pointed out the clear way how to proceed to democracy,” U Win Than said.

“I think he highlighted two major points: [the importance of] check and balances and the support of the people [so that reforms] don’t go backwards.”