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Remarks by President Obama and Burmese President Sein, May 2013

Speakers: Barack Obama, and Thein Sein
Published May 20, 2013

President Barack Obama and Burmese President Thein Sein gave these remarks after their meeting on May 20, 2013. Their meeting was the first time in fifty years a leader from Myanmar had visited the United States.

Excerpt from their remarks:

"PRESIDENT SEIN: (As interpreted.) I would like to express my sincere thanks to President Obama for inviting me to come to the United States. Indeed, this is my very first visit to Washington, D.C., as well as to the White House.

And I am also very pleased to have this opportunity to discuss about the democratization process and reform process undertaken in my country.

Our two countries established diplomatic relations since 1947, a year before our independence. And since then we have been able to enjoy -- historically, our two countries have enjoyed cordial relations, and there were also exchange of -- high-level exchange of visit between our two countries.

But I have to say that in the past there were difficulties in our bilateral relationship. But now we are very pleased that our relations have been improved significantly, and I am very thankful that in 50 years I am repaying a visit to the United States at the invitation of President Obama. And I am very grateful for extending an invitation to me to pay a visit to the United States.

Now that our country, Myanmar, has started to practice democratic system, so we can say that we have -- both our countries have similar political system in our two countries.

As you all know, our government is just -- our democratic government is just two years old. And we have -- within the short period of two years, our government has carried out political and economic reforms in our country. Because we are in a very nascent stage of democratic -- a democratic stage, we still need a lot of democratic experience and practices to be learned. And we have seen successes. At the same time, we have been encountering obstacle and challenges along our democratization process -- path.

The improvement in our relation is also in recognition -- U.S. government's recognition of our democratization efforts and our genuine efforts for democratization process in our country. And it is also due to -- thanks to President Obama's reengagement policy to reengage with our country so that we have seen improvement in our bilateral relation within a short period of time.

Myanmar, being a developing country, and as we are undertaking changes of our democratization reforms, it is a daunting task ahead of us. We encounter many challenges, such as the present -- our poverty rate in the country is quite high and we have very few job opportunity, and then as well as we have a -- we do not have much middle class in our country. And then we -- our people needs to be all familiar with democratic practice, democratic norms and values.

So we have a lot of challenges ahead of us, but we have to -- thanks to the U.S. government and the people support them for understanding that we will be able to encounter these challenges as we undertake the reform process in our country.

During my meeting with -- our discussion with President, as he has already elaborated, we discussed about the rule of law in our country; the strengthening of judicial bodies; the providing assistance so that our police and military force become professional forces. And then to reiterate, we also discussed what related to the poverty alleviation for the rural people and farmers, agriculture, development, as well as how uplifting the health and education sectors of our countries.

So we had a very fruitful discussion with President Obama, and then I must say that I am very pleased to have this opportunity to have a candid and frank discussion with President Obama. And I believe that I have my visit to the United States is quite successful and meaningful.

So for democracy to flourish in our country, we will have to move forward and we will have to undertake reforms -- political reforms and economic reforms in the years ahead. We will also have to -- we are trying our best with our own efforts to have political and economic reforms in our country. But we will also need -- along this path, we will also need the assistance and understanding from the international community, including the United States.

And what I want to say is that President Obama has frequently used the word "forward." And I will take this opportunity to reiterate that Myanmar and I will continue to take the forward -- move forward so that we will have -- we can build a new democratic state -- a new Myanmar, a new democratic state in our country.

I thank you all."

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