By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — U.S. President Barack Obama has become the first sitting president to visit Burma (also known as Myanmar).
Obama arrived on November 19 aboard Air Force One after visiting Thailand.
Obama is set to deliver a speech at a university in the former capital Rangoon (also known as Yangon).
The White House released excerpts from the speech in which Obama will say, “Today, I have come to keep my promise, and extend the hand of friendship” but stress that “this remarkable journey has just begun, and has much further to go.”
Burma’s leaders have only recently introduced reforms aimed at improving the dismal human rights record acquired over decades of military rule.
Some rights activists have questioned Obama’s trip suggesting it is too early to be sure the reforms Burmese leaders have started to implement will be continued.
U.S. officials have emphasized Obama’s visit is a sign of support for these reforms and the U.S. president is expected to announce a $170 million development aid package for Burma during his brief stay in Burma.
Obama is scheduled to meet Burmese President Thein Sein and pro-democracy opposition leader Aung Sun Suu Kyi.
Suu Kyi won a seat in parliament after being released from years of house arrest by the country’s new leadership.
Obama is due to depart Burma later on November 19 and travel to Cambodia for an East Asia Summit.
Obama’s trip to the three Asian nations is meant to emphasize a renewed U.S. commitment to Asia.