Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Myanmar, completed a two-day visit to Washington, D.C., on Thursday. The Nobel Peace Prize winner met separately with President Barack Obama and United States congressional leaders.
They spoke about her country’s move towards democracy and U.S. economic sanctions on Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.
It was Aung San Suu Kyi’s first visit to the U.S. as state counselor and foreign minister – a position she took after her party won in elections last November. Myanmar’s constitution bars her from serving as president because her husband and children are foreigners.
[President Obama:] “So if you predicted five years ago that Aung San Suu Kyi would now be here, sitting as the duly elected representative of her country, many people would have been skeptical. But it’s a good news story in an era in which so often we see countries going in the opposite direction...”
Obama and Aung San Suu Kyi met on Wednesday. He said Myanmar is experiencing a “remarkable social and political transformation.”
The president expressed readiness to lift economic sanctions on the country. Those sanctions were ordered to punish the government’s failure to honor the results of the 1990 elections. Obama can cancel the measures without congressional action.
“The United States is now prepared to lift sanctions that we have imposed on Burma for quite some time. It is the right thing to do in order to ensure that people of Burma see rewards from a new way of doing business...”
Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed the end of the sanctions. She said that while Myanmar has made progress in its move towards democracy, more remains to be done. She said the biggest test may be uniting the ethnic groups that are in that country.
"Unity also needs prosperity, because people, when they have to fight over limited resources, forget that standing together is important."
Members of Congress expressed mixed reaction to Obama’s plan to lift the sanctions.
“The president acted unilaterally in a way that was unfortunate,” said Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado. Gardner, a Republican, chairs the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.
With the lifting of sanctions and a new investment law expected in the coming weeks, Aung San Suu Kyi asked American businesses to invest in Myanmar.
“I expect you businessmen to come to our country to make profits so that they can make profits for us, as well.”
Some human rights leaders say it is too soon to lift sanctions on Myanmar. They say the government's human rights record is not good with religious minorities, mainly the Rohingyas.
The White House says Aung San Suu Kyi has made a lot of progress on human rights concerns, since her party came to power.
I’m Dorothy Gundy.
Cindy Saine and Jeff Custer reported on this story for VOANews.com. Dorothy Gundy adapted this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
de facto – adj. used to describe something that exists but that is not officially accepted or recognized
sanctions - n. an action that is taken or an order that is given to force a country to obey international laws by limiting or stopping trade with that country, by not allowing economic aid for that country, etc. — usually plural
skeptical – adj. having or expressing distrust about something
era – n. a period of time that is linked with a particular quality, event, person
transformation - n. a complete or major change in someone's or something's appearance, form, etc.
prosperity – n. the state of being successful usually by making a lot of money
resources – n. something that a country has and can use to increase its wealth
unilaterally - adj. involving only one group or country
unfortunate - adj. having bad luck