U.S. State Secretary Hillary Clinton has started her historic trip to Myanmar (formerly Burma) as she and her party arrived in the capital city of Naypyidaw Wednesday for a two-day visit that includes a meeting with democracy leader Aung san Suu Kyi.
Prior to Clinton's trip, President Barack Obama spoke to Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi over the phone after which he announced Clinton's visit to pursue what he calls "flickers of progress" in the country.
"I will obviously be looking to determine for myself what the intention is of the current government with respect to continued reforms," Clinton said from Busan in South Korea before taking off for Naypyidaw, the new capital of Myanmar.
"We and many other nations are very hopeful that these flickers of progress as President (Barack) Obama called them in Bali will be ignited into a movement for change that will benefit the people of the country."
In his "flickers of progress" statement, Obama was referring, among others, to the release of some political prisoners who have been languishing in jails for years without court trial, the release from detention of democracy leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi and the holding of "free elections" late last year which paved the way to the formation of a parliamentary form government.
Clinton is scheduled to meet Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and democracy leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi in a private dinner. It will be their first meeting although they have talked over the phone before the visit.
Myanmar President Thein Sein, who was a key leader in the defunct military junta, has been issuing directives aimed at relaxing the rules that governed Myanmar for decades under the military regime. The President's latest action was the approval of a law that guarantees the right of the people to protest and peaceful assembly.
Aung San Suu Kyi is the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) who won in the 1990 elections but was never allowed to take power. The military junta instead put her in detention for the last 15 years until her release last year.
Myanmar has been ruled by a military junta for decades until late last year when the the nation held general elections which paved the way for a parliamentary form of government which later installed a civilian government under President Thein Sein.