Obama: Myanmar trip acknowledges progress to democracy

BANGKOK Sun Nov 18, 2012 7:30pm IST

U.S. President Barack Obama waves to photographers as he arrives at Don Muang international airport in Bangkok November 18, 2012. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

U.S. President Barack Obama waves to photographers as he arrives at Don Muang international airport in Bangkok November 18, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Chaiwat Subprasom

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BANGKOK (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama said on Sunday that his upcoming trip to Myanmar was not an endorsement of the government, but rather an acknowledgement of the progress it has made in moving towards democracy after decades of military rule.

"We understand it's a work in progress," he told a news conference in Thailand.

But he added: "I'm not somebody who thinks that the United States should stand on the sidelines and not want to get its hands dirty when there's an opportunity for us to encourage the better impulses inside a country."

Obama will on Monday become the first serving U.S. president to visit the country, also known as Burma.

Some human rights groups say the visit is premature because reforms have yet to be consolidated, but the White House has said Obama would press Myanmar's reformist president, Thein Sein, both in public and in private to do more about ethnic violence and human rights abuses.

(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick, Jeff Mason, Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Paul Carsten; Writing by Alan Raybould; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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