Hillary Clinton lands in Myanmar espousing hope for change

Posted on: December 1, 2011

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shakes hands with Myanmar's President Thein Sein during a meeting at the president's office in Naypyitaw on Dec. 1, 2011. Damir Sagolj/Reuters

Saying she hopes to support “a movement for change,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived Wednesday in Myanmar on a landmark visit that will see her meet leaders of the current military-backed pariah government, as well as opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

Though the trip marks the first visit by a U.S. secretary of state since John Foster Dulles in 1955, the fanfare upon Ms. Clinton’s arrival was minimal. She was greeted at the airport in Naypyidaw by a deputy foreign minister – and two large signs welcoming the capital’s next visitor, the Prime Minister of fellow international outcast Belarus.

A year ago, the United States led a chorus dismissing the first elections in the former Burma since 1990 as a sham aimed to perpetuate military control over the country. The results of the heavily manipulated vote seemed to support that conclusion – a parliament dominated by military officers, and a new “civilian” President who was one of the top figures in the outgoing junta.

But that general-turned-president, Thein Sein, has moulded cynicism into hope with a series of rapid reforms that have stunned the country after five decades of direct military rule. Now, even Ms. Suu Kyi – who was under house arrest while her party boycotted the November, 2010, election – seems to be among the converts. After a private meeting in August with Mr. Thein Sein, she agreed to rejoin the political process and is expected to run as a candidate in parliamentary by-elections scheduled for early next year.

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