Thu, Jan 22, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Myanmar hopes for policy change from Obama: official

AFP , YANGON, MYANMAR

Myanmar hopes that new US President Barack Obama will change Washington’s tough policy towards its military regime and end the “misunderstandings” of the past, a senior official said yesterday.

The Myanmar government and state media have made no official comment on Obama’s inauguration, but the official said on condition of anonymity that the country was looking to the US leader to show his “good intentions.”

Former US president George W. Bush’s administration strengthened decade-old sanctions against Myanmar while his wife Laura was an outspoken critic of the country’s ruling junta.

“Our two countries’ relations have had some misunderstandings in the past with the Bush administration. Mr Obama needs to study our country’s real situation so that he can change policy,” the Myanmar official said.

“There have been many mistakes in the past [in relations between the countries]. We have had misunderstandings. But now we are expecting good intentions,” he said.

The Myanmar official accused Bush of making “one-sided” decisions.

The Bush administration “made decisions one-sidedly without knowing the real situation on the ground. We hope that US foreign policy will change for the world,” he said.

State-owned daily newspapers carried no comment on the swearing-in of Obama and there were only a few reports in the papers’ foreign news sections.

But people in Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon, watched the inauguration ceremony on satellite TV overnight.

“I have never seen anything like this ceremony in my life,” Aye Aye, 28, a university student said after staying up until late to see the event.

“There were so many people and it was very surprising and also interesting. I do not understand politics, I just watched because of my interest in the inauguration of the new president,” she said.

Myanmar’s top leader, Senior General Than Shwe, sent a formal diplomatic note of congratulation to Obama in November after he was elected.

Myanmar’s opposition pro-party has also cautiously welcomed the election of Obama, but said time would tell if he could help open up the military-run country.

Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962 and is under economic sanctions from the US and Europe over rights abuses and the detention of pro-democracy leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

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