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Obama to discuss Rohingya violence on Myanmar visit

US Secretary of State says President Barack Obama will visit Myanmar to discuss the ethnic unrest between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in the western state of Rakhine

AFP , Wednesday 14 Nov 2012
Women walk pass a wall with graffiti welcoming U.S. President Barack Obama on a street side in Yangon November 11, 2012. U.S (Photo: Reuters)
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President Barack Obama will discuss the deadly sectarian violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state during his historic visit to the country, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday.

She will accompany Obama next week when he makes the first visit to Myanmar by a sitting US president, during which he will meet both President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Clinton said unrest between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in the western state of Rakhine would "of course" feature in Obama's talks.

The clashes in that region have so far claimed 180 lives and forced more than 110,000, mainly Rohingya, into makeshift camps.

"We've condemned that violence, we've called for calm and a meaningful dialogue to address the legitimate needs that are at the base of these underlying issues," said Clinton.

"And certainly we expect the Burmese authorities to ensure the security and safety of all of the people in the area and to act expeditiously both to stop violence and investigate it, and bring those responsible to justice."

During the visit Obama will deepen his support for the reform process launched by Myanmar's president which has seen Suu Kyi, who had been under house arrest for years, become a member of parliament.

Clinton said Obama's visit was a sign of how far long-isolated Myanmar, formerly know as Burma, had come and reflected an "action-for-action" approach to positive changes there.

"The reforms have a long way to go, the future is not certain, but we are making progress and we want to see that progress continue," Clinton told reporters.

Washington restored diplomatic relations with Myanmar and ended sanctions on investment in July.

But the United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay last week warned that the conflict in Rakhine could stall the country's reform-drive and called on Myanmar to allow the Rohingya to become citizens.

The group's statelessness is at the heart of two deadly outbreaks of unrest between Buddhist and Muslim communities since June.

Rakhine's 800,000 Rohingya are considered by the UN to be one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.

Obama is also expected to make a speech to civil society groups and may make a stop at a cultural site in Yangon during his visit.

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