The Straits Times
Published on Nov 18, 2012

Obama defends Myanmar visit as supporting democratisation


BANGKOK - United States (US) President Barack Obama defended his upcoming visit of Myanmar while in Bangkok on Sunday night, saying that he was heading there to support its democratisation effort rather than to endorse the Myanmar government.

The US will not stand aside when "there is an opportunity for us to encourage better impulses in a country,'' he said at a press conference after meeting Thailand prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Thailand is the first stop of his four-day swing through South-east Asia, timed to renew focus on a region with some of the world's fastest growing economies.

Earlier in the afternoon, Mr Obama met Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej and toured the two-centuries old Wat Pho royal monastery specially emptied out for his visit.

Thailand on Sunday, also announced its intention to enter into negotiations to join the US-led Trans Pacific Partnership, a wide-ranging free trade agreement which the Obama administration has made a key focus of its foreign policy.

Thailand has also signed the proliferation security initiative initiated by the US in 2003 to curb transfer of weapons of mass destruction between states and non-state actors.