Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Fondly Recalls Obama Visits

By The Irrawaddy 11 January 2017

RANGOON — As President Barack Obama of the United States gave a tearful farewell speech in Chicago on Wednesday, Burma’s State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi described the outgoing president’s visits to her house as “something that I would always remember.”

Obama teared up during his hour-long final address. He governed the United States for eight years, the same length of time as his predecessor, President George W. Bush, and in line with US constitutional limits. Obama’s term will end on Jan. 20.

On Wednesday, the British news site The Independent published a five-minute vox pop video on the departing US president that included some friendly words from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The State Counselor recalled Obama’s visit to her home in 2012, when he became the first sitting US president to visit Burma.

“What I remember most about the visit is how excited everybody at my house was, especially all the young people. I think the way we got so excited and happy about it was something that I will always remember,” said the State Counselor.

During Obama’s two terms in the Oval Office, Burma played a major role in his “Asia pivot” foreign policy. In 2011, he sent then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Burma when the country began undergoing a democratic transition. In 2012, he opened diplomatic channels by appointing US Ambassador Derek Mitchell, the first US ambassador to Burma in 22 years. In 2016, the 55-year-old US president lifted his country’s economic sanctions against Burma.

Obama came to Burma twice. During his first visit in November 2012, he visited Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s residence in Rangoon. He also met with students and civil society leaders at Rangoon University’s Convocation Hall.

On his second trip to Burma, Obama attended the 25th Asean Summit in Naypyidaw and conducted meetings with former President Thein Sein. He also paid a second visit to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at her home.

That visit provoked U Htay Oo, then the joint-chair of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), to make a mocking comment about Obama’s warm kisses and affectionate hugs for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

“The leaders of powerful nations, who are trying to take action against us, have even visited us twice,” U Htay Oo said. “Mr. Barack Obama visited us two times. What happened? He kissed her twice!”

But the USDP campaign catch phrase never became popular. In the November 2015 elections, the NLD won 77 percent of the open seats while the USDP only managed a humiliating 10.