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The US must reckon how best to encourage further reform in Burma
The Burmese president's visit to the White House Monday was the first since Lyndon B. Johnson hosted Burma's leader in 1966. In the nearly half-century since, the Southeast Asian nation of 50 million or so people has been ground into poverty by the misrule of repressive, reclusive generals. But over the past two years, Thein Sein, a former general, and the rest of his regime have freed political prisoners, relaxed censorship laws and welcomed foreign investment. They have promised parliamentary elections for 2015 in which, at least in theory, people might be allowed to elect a government of their choice for the first time in the nation's history...
In an interview with The Post Sunday, the Burmese leader... declined to say whether he would support changes to the constitution to allow Aung San Suu Kyi to run for president. He wavered on previous commitments to allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to open an office. He supported the military playing a leading political role and said that, as president, he makes decisions "collectively" with the National Defence and Security Council, where the military chieftains sit. Asked about the Rohingya, a Muslim minority that has been the target of violence and ethnic cleansing by Burma's Buddhist majority, Thein Sein denied that they exist. "There is no Rohingya among our races," he said, speaking through an official translator. "We have Bengalis who were brought to do farming during colonial days. Some of them settled." He spoke approvingly of a 1982 law that has been used to deny them citizenship. The question for Washington is how best to encourage further reform.