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Burma’s reform-minded president will speak in Washington on Monday during a landmark visit as the United States encourages changes in the former pariah nation, hosts said.
President Thein Sein will speak Monday at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies and the US Chamber of Commerce, the country’s largest business federation, spokespeople for the two organizations said.
Thein Sein is also expected to meet President Barack Obama on the trip, the first to Washington by a Burmese leader since military leader Ne Win was invited in 1966 by president Lyndon Johnson.
AFP reported the trip earlier this month and the visit was confirmed by Burma’s state television on Monday, but the exact date had not been previously announced.
The long-planned trip comes just as a cyclone prepared to barrel into Burma’s state of Arakan, where around 140,000 people — mostly Rohingya Muslims — are living in flimsy tents or makeshift housing after communal riots.
The violence, which mostly targeted Rohingya, has renewed charges by some human rights groups that the United States has moved too quickly in its reconciliation with Burma and not preserved leverage.
A recent Human Rights Watch study accused the country of a “campaign of ethnic cleansing” against the Rohingya.
But the Obama administration has praised Thein Sein’s statements on communal harmony, arguing that the problems — while serious — predate his tenure.
A former general, Thein Sein surprised even many critics after taking office in 2011 by launching reforms including freeing hundreds of political prisoners and allowing opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi to enter parliament.
The Obama administration has pledged to encourage Burma’s reforms and has suspended most sanctions against the country in recognition of progress.