Washington, United States (4E) – Showing support to Myanmar’s leader for bringing the series of reforms in his country, U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday lifted visa restrictions against President Thein Sein, allowing him to visit next month’s United Nations’ summit.
In a statement, White House national security spokesman Tommy Vietor said that Obama’s decision signals U.S.’ interest in having close ties with Sein and his government, which continues to carry out political and economical reforms.
Had Obama not ordered the exception, Thein Sein could not have freely traveled during the U.N. General Assembly.
“Burma’s progress in undertaking political and economic reform has been facilitated, to a large degree, by our increasing engagement with key reformers in the government,” Vietor said, calling Myanmar by its former name.
Vietor added that the decision would also allow Myanmar’s president and his delegation to better understand U.S. policies and democracy during the foreign trip.
After taking office earlier this year, former general Thein Sein brought a series of reforms, including releasing political prisoners, electing Suu Kyi to Parliament, relaxing media censorship and holding talks with ethnic rebel groups.
Washington, in turn, praised the reforms and eased sanctions on Myanmar by allowing U.S. companies to resume investments in Myanmar. It also sent its ambassador to Myanmar – a rare move in more than 20 years.
Meanwhile, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is likely to visit the U.S. to receive highest U.S. honor – the Congressional Gold Medal. Her visit comes exactly at the same time when Thein Sein is to attend U.N. summit in New York.
In a separate development, President Thein Sein pardoned three aid workers, including two U.N. employees, after alleging them for their roles in ethnic violence in Rakhine state. The decision to pardon the workers came on a call by a U.N. human rights envoy, who described the charges unfounded.
“This is all coming to us rather suddenly. What we can say for now is that we welcome their release,” Eri Kaneko, associate spokesperson for the U.N. secretary-general, said.