This week’s meeting between President Obama and President Thein Sein of Myanmar re-ignited controversy over the pace of improvement of U.S. relations with the southeast Asian nation.
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has had a troubled history since it gained independence in 1948. A long period of heavy-handed rule by the country’s military has only recently eased. Myanmar’s ethnic minorities and civilian political majority have faced persecution.
Still, Myanmar now seems on the road to democracy, economic development, and reasonable government. Mr. Obama visited the country last November.
The country’s famous political detainee, Aung San Suu Kyi, was freed in 2011. Her National League for Democracy has a role in the Myanmar parliament. President Sein, a former general, seems determined to move Myanmar toward a higher standard of living.
Problems remain. There has been recent ugly treatment of Myanmar’s Muslim minority by its Buddhist majority. America is competing with China for access to Myanmar’s oil and natural gas.
Mr. Obama argues, in effect, that he is now in a position to tell Myanmar’s leaders: The reforms you are making are right — keep on doing them and we will be able to help. The implication is that if they don’t, America can’t.