Some Myanmar reforms in 'slowdown' – Obama
NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar - US President Barack Obama expressed concerns ahead of a visit to Myanmar starting Wednesday, November 12, that the pace of democratic reforms in the formerly military-ruled nation were not fast enough.
"Progress has not come as fast as many had hoped when the transition began four years ago," Obama said in an interview with The Irrawaddy published on its website on Wednesday.
"In some areas there has been a slowdown in reforms, and even some steps backward.
"In addition to restrictions on freedom of the press, we continue to see violations of basic human rights and abuses in the country's ethnic areas, including reports of extrajudicial killings, rape and forced labour," he added.
His comments follow a warning by opposition leader and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi against US "over-optimism" over the country's path towards democracy.
Last week she said reforms had been "stalling" for almost two years.
Suu Kyi, who like Obama is a Nobel Peace Prize winner, is campaigning to change a junta-era constitution that blocks her from becoming president and reserves a quarter of parliamentary seats for unelected soldiers.
Obama will meet reformist President Thein Sein and Suu Kyi during his stay.
The US president, making his second trip to the country since it emerged from full junta rule, has invested heavily in Myanmar's opening up as he hunts a prized foreign policy win from a two-term presidency dogged by turmoil on the international stage.
He will meet reformist President Thein Sein and Suu Kyi during his stay.
But he highlighted several examples where reforms appear to have been stunted.
"Former political prisoners continue to face restrictions," he said in the interview.
"Members of the media have been arrested, and journalist Aung Kyaw Naing was tragically and senselessly murdered," he added, referring to the fatal shooting by the army of a reporter in the insurgency-prone eastern border region.
Local military claimed he was a member of a rebel group who had tried to escape, an allegation his wife denies. - Rappler.com