Obama’s State of the Union remarks on Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar

President Obama just finished his State of the Union address.

I Tweeted his remarks about Myanmar and wanted to share them here as well:

Here’s the rest of the passage, for context. You can find the full text and a video of the speech on the New York Times’s site.

We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all. In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day. So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades: by connecting more people to the global economy and empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve and helping communities to feed, power, and educate themselves; by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation.

Above all, America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during this period of historic change. I saw the power of hope last year in Rangoon – when Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed an American President into the home where she had been imprisoned for years; when thousands of Burmese lined the streets, waving American flags, including a man who said, “There is justice and law in the United States. I want our country to be like that.”

In defense of freedom, we will remain the anchor of strong alliances from the Americas to Africa; from Europe to Asia. In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy. The process will be messy, and we cannot presume to dictate the course of change in countries like Egypt; but we can – and will – insist on respect for the fundamental rights of all people. We will keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own people, and support opposition leaders that respect the rights of every Syrian. And we will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace. These are the messages I will deliver when I travel to the Middle East next month.

Story of the Day, Obama’s Connection to Myanmar Edition

The New York Times reports:

When President Obama lands in Yangon on Monday, he will be the first sitting American president to visit the country now known as Myanmar. But he will not be the first Obama to visit.

The president’s Kenyan grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, spent part of World War II in what was then called Burma as a cook for a British Army captain. Although details are sometimes debated, the elder Mr. Obama’s Asian experience proved formative just as his grandson’s time growing up in Indonesia did decades later.

“His roots go through Burma,” said Timothy Parsons, an African history professor at Washington University in St. Louis who wrote a book on the colonial East African military. “It is kind of an odd intersection of his life. It’s like the three corners of the triangle come together — America, East Africa and Southeast Asia.”

President Obama to Visit Thailand, Myanmar, and Cambodia

I wanted to point out a few stories ahead of President Obama’s upcoming Southeast Asia trip.

Obama will be Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), and Cambodia from Saturday November 17 through Tuesday November 20.

The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok provides details on Obama’s itinerary:

In Thailand, he will meet with Prime Minister Yingluck to mark 180 years of diplomatic relations and reaffirm the strength of our alliance. In Burma, the President will meet with President Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi and speak to civil society to encourage Burma’s ongoing democratic transition. In Cambodia, the President will attend the East Asia Summit and meet with the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The Bangkok Post says:

Despite the 12-hour time difference between Washington DC and Bangkok, US President Barack Obama will not even set foot in his hotel until after the day’s business here is finished.

The US president will arrive on Sunday afternoon at Don Mueang airport and travel directly to the Grand Palace where US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be waiting for him, a city police source said.

They will travel on to Siriraj Hospital where they will have an audience with His Majesty the King, the source added.

Mr Obama would then travel to Government House to have dinner with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, said the source, adding that after the dinner, he would have a meeting with about 600 US embassy staff at Chulalongkorn University’s sports complex.

At the end of the day, Mr Obama would check in at the Four Seasons Hotel on Ratchaprasong Road.

Obama will speak at Yangon University on Monday, according to the The New York Times.

The scars of military rule run deep at Yangon University — decrepit buildings, broken sidewalks and mold everywhere. But with plans for President Obama to visit on Monday, hundreds of workers have converged in an urgent effort to spruce up the campus. Mr. Obama’s trip to Myanmar will be the first by an American president, and the authorities are creating something of a Potemkin campus to greet him.

Meanwhile, and an op-ed in today’s Times by Bill Richardson and Mickey Bergman surveys political reforms in Myanmar:

After meeting with an array of leaders in Myanmar, we believe that Thein Sein is committed to transitioning to democracy. But the jury is still out on whether the reform effort will succeed. This is not a revolution like we’ve seen in Middle East countries during the last two years. This is a calculated and contained process — a reform movement from within. On the one hand, it has to be slow and deliberate to allow for governing capacity to be built, as well as to prevent those who prefer the status quo from blocking change, and to keep oligarchs from seizing control and plundering Myanmar’s abundant natural resources. On the other hand, it does need to move quickly so that the population will feel the benefits of reform. Success will rely heavily on full engagement and investment from abroad.

And Lewis M. Simons writes in an op-ed about Obama’s “Asian-style diplomacy”:

As President Obama heads to Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos this week and next, intent on reversing China’s drive to tighten its grasp on Southeast Asia, he is exercising an uncannily Asian-style diplomacy.

By moving calmly into China’s backyard, without threats or in-your-face muscularity, he is proving himself adept at playing by Asian rules. How subtle of him. And smart.

On the subject of Cambodia and Hun Sen, Mark McDonald writes in the IHT:

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will visit Southeast Asia this week, promoting American commercial interests in Singapore, reinforcing the U.S. military alliance with Thailand and putting the presidential imprimatur on democratic reforms in Myanmar.

But their stop in Cambodia for a regional summit meeting next week will be diplomatically stickier: Photo opportunities with Hun Sen, the authoritarian prime minister of Cambodia, will be hard to avoid.

Obama to visit Thailand in November?

Today’s Bangkok Post says:

US President Barack Obama is expected to pay an official visit to Thailand in November during his trip to Bali to attend the East Asian Summit, government sources said.

Thailand extended an invitation for Mr Obama to visit the kingdom after he was inaugurated, which was about the same time that former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva took office.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been the highest-level Obama administration cabinet member to visit Thailand, in July 2009. President Obama telephoned Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Saturday to congratulate her on her election as the country’s first female prime minister, describing it as a sign of “success of the democratic process”.

On Twitter this morning, U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney wrote, seemingly in response to a question about Obama’s potential visit:

It is way to early to know. There are no definite plans at this point.

Elsewhere on Twitter, some have speculated about whether or not a potential Obama visit would affect the situation of Thai-born American citizen Joe Gordon.

As I mentioned in May, Gordon is being detained for allegedly insulting the Thai king.

As it happens, the AP reported yesterday that he has now been officially charged:

A lawyer says an American citizen has been formally charged with insulting Thailand’s monarchy, which carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

(Emphasis mine.)

Around the Web: improving college rankings, Federer’s footwork, inventors killed by their own inventions, and more

Some links that have caught my eye of late:

Obama inauguration in Bangkok’s newspapers

President Obama’s inauguration was, of course, front-page news here in Bangkok today. Here’re the top left corner of Thai Rath newspaper, a popular daily1:

Obama inauguration in Bangkok's Thai Rath newspaper

And here’s today’s Bangkok Post2.

Obama inauguration in the Bangkok Post

UPDATE: Hong Kong blogger Thomas Crampton has a nice round-up of Obama front pages around Asia.

  1. Thai Rath‘s coverage can be quite sensational. Today’s issue contains three striking below-the-fold images not included in this scan: a man who was killed in a car crash; a woman embracing what appears to be a dead relative; and a crime scene photo of a shirtless man face down in a pool of blood. []
  2. Apologies for the poor scans. My scanner isn’t big enough to accommodate the papers’ broadsheet size. The full Bangkok Post headline reads “Obama Pledges New America.” []

Obama Cookies

Obama Cookies

Thanks to my friend FH for sending along this image of a package of Obama cookies, which she found at a Safeway grocery store in Washington, DC.

Just in time for the big inauguration.1

  1. Thailand readers: President elect Obama is scheduled to take the Oath of Office at approximately midnight Bangkok time (noon eastern time) on Tuesday, January 20. []

Obama wins: electoral maps, images, and more

"Obama Makes History" Washington Post front page

Some links:

  • For a recap of the election, this Wikipedia page — United States presidential election, 2008 — is a good place to start.
  • Newseum has images from today’s front pages. (Here’s a bigger image of the Washington Post front page above.)
  • The Big Picture has a collection of photos of Obama throughout the campaign.
  • Kottke.org has a nice round-up of electoral map images.
  • Electioneering ’08 is “a historical snapshot of various media sources’ coverage of Election Day 2008.”
  • Watching the election from abroad

    2008 presidential election electoral map

    A and I will be gathering around the TV tomorrow1, watching the election results with a group of friends. We’ll be checking out the live news coverage, and I’m sure there’ll be some laptops and smart phones out, with folks consulting electoral analysis sites like the intriguing FiveThirtyEight.com2.

    There’ve been some intense discussions among our pals, though, about what time the results will be known. We’re 12 hours ahead of eastern time, so, we’ve been wondering, will we know who the next POTUS is by 9 a.m. tomorrow3? 10 a.m.? 11 a.m.?

    Turns out that some news organizations might be calling the election by early as 8 a.m. Bangkok time (8 p.m. eastern).4

    NY Times: Networks May Call Race Before Voting Is Complete

    At least one broadcast network and one Web site said Monday that they could foresee signaling to viewers early Tuesday evening which candidate appeared to have won the presidency, despite the unreliability of some early exit polls in the last presidential election.

    A senior vice president of CBS News, Paul Friedman, said the prospects for Barack Obama or John McCain meeting the minimum threshold of electoral votes could be clear as soon as 8 p.m. — before polls in even New York and Rhode Island close, let alone those in Texas and California. At such a moment, determined from a combination of polling data and samples of actual votes, the network could share its preliminary projection with viewers, Mr. Friedman said.

    “We could know Virginia at 7,” he said. “We could know Indiana before 8. We could know Florida at 8. We could know Pennsylvania at 8. We could know the whole story of the election with those results. We can’t be in this position of hiding our heads in the sand when the story is obvious.”

    Similarly, the editor of the Web site Slate, David Plotz, said in an e-mail message that “if Obama is winning heavily,” he could see calling the race “sometime between 8 and 9.”

    “Our readers are not stupid, and we shouldn’t engage in a weird Kabuki drama that pretends McCain could win California and thus the presidency,” Mr. Plotz wrote. “We will call it when a sensible person — not a TV news anchor who has to engage in a silly pretense about West Coast voters — would call it.”

    (Emphasis mine.)

    Bangkok friends and other readers abroad: How do you plan to follow the election news? Got any good Web sites to share? Let us know in the comments.

    Electoral map image via the NY Times.

    1. Later today, US time []
    2. Baseball stats-like analysis + politics = great reading []
    3. Er, Tuesday night eastern time []
    4. You see how confusing this can get. []