Obama to push Myanmar reforms in Suu Kyi talks

Obama to push Myanmar reforms in Suu Kyi talks

US President Barack Obama arrived in Yangon today to hold talks with Myanmar's democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi, as the nation turns towards next year's elections with uncertainty over the direction of reforms.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party is widely expected to sweep polls in late 2015, but its figurehead is banned from the presidency by a constitutional clause.
Obama landed in Yangon, the country's commercial hub, fresh from talks after the East
Asia Summit in capital Naypyidaw with his Myanmar counterpart Thein Sein, who has overseen reforms since 2011.

After discussions late Thursday, Obama emerged with a message of hope for the once-cloistered nation that balanced out earlier warnings on the risks of "backsliding" on the transition.

"The democratic process in Myanmar is real," Obama said.

"We recognise change is hard and you do not always move in a straight line but I'm optimistic."

During his two-night trip the US leader has also raised alarm over the direction of reforms, citing the cramping of freedom of expression, ongoing conflicts and the treatment of Myanmar's minority groups -- especially the Muslim Rohingya.

Obama was due to tour the British colonial-era secretariat building in downtown Yangon where Suu Kyi's father, independence hero General Aung San, was gunned down by political rivals in 1947.

The two Nobel laureates are expected to hold talks at Suu Kyi's lakeside family home later Friday morning, where she spent years under house arrest by the generals for her freedom struggle until her release in 2010.

Her street, which also houses the US Embassy, was sealed off Friday with dozens of Myanmar police at each end as well as a scrum of reporters and cameramen and some NLD members.

It is a reprise of their landmark meeting in 2012, when Obama received a fanfare welcome from thrilled locals a year after Thein Sein began to open the country.

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