09/17/2012, 00.00
UNITED STATES - MYANMAR
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Aung San Suu Kyi in the US to discuss reforms, sanctions and the fate of the Rohingya

Myanmar's opposition leader will receive the US highest civilian award from Congress. She is expected to meet government leaders, including President Obama, as well as exiled Burmese in New York and San Francisco. The fate of minority Muslim Rohingya is a touchy issue at home and abroad for the Nobel Prize laureate.

Washington (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Myanmar's pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi began a 17-day tour of the United States today where she will meet high-ranking US government officials as well as major Burmese exiles and dissidents.

Her first stop is in Washington where she is expected to talk with officials at the State Department and the White House, including a possible meeting with US President Barack Obama.

Talks are expected to centre on recent political and social reforms launched by the Burmese government as well as the possibility of lifting US sanctions against the former Burma.

The fate of the Southeast Asian country's Rohingya Muslim minority, which has suffered ethnic-religious persecution for months, should also be discussed.

In the US capital, the Nobel Prize laureate will receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honour in the US, which she was awarded in 2008 when she was under house arrest.

Aung San Suu Kyi will then travel to New York, where she lived between 1969 and 1971, followed by the Midwest and finally San Francisco, California, home to a large community of Burmese exiles.

Since her release in November 2010, Myanmar has undertaken a long process of democratic reforms after decades of military dictatorship, a transition that has led the peace prize winner to parliament.

However, there are still many critics among dissidents and opposition figures, for whom the changes are only superficial since the top leaders of the armed forces remain the real powerbrokers.

Recently, US President Barack Obama and his administration began lifting some trade sanctions, a process that should now be complete.

On the eve of her departure, opposition National League for Democracy spokesman Nyan Win, said that Suu Kyi would she would use "this opportunity" to "talk at least about the reforms situation in Myanmar".

Another hot topic on the agenda is the fate of minority Rohingya, victim of military-backed Buddhist persecution in the western state of Rakhine.

In the recent past, Myanmar's main opposition leader took a prudent stance on ethnic conflicts and the issue of citizenship for the Muslim group. Asked in June whether Rohingya should be regarded as Burmese citizens, she said, "I do not know".

Last week the US embassy in Yangon expressed its "great concern" at the humanitarian situation in Rakhine state.

 

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