Blueprint of hope for Myanmar

 
-- ST ILLUSTRATION: MANNY FRANCISCO

THE visit of a first sitting US president to Myanmar earlier this month was a historic moment for the people of the country. Children, monks and other well-wishers gathered excitedly at the airport for hours to greet him. People swarmed out of their offices to wave as President Barack Obama and his entourage passed by.

For six hours, people in the capital were transfixed, following Mr Obama's every step on Facebook and television, from his arrival at the airport to his definitive speech at Yangon University. The openness of the coverage of this event within Myanmar and the country's willingness to engage with the United States on multiple levels illustrates the substance of change taking place.

This visit was much more than a reflection of the US' pivot to Asia and a showcase of Myanmar's ongoing reform process; the messages it embodied offer broader lessons with regional implications.

Foremost of these is the validation of the oft-used truism that engagement works. Myanmar is one of the few US foreign policy successes of Mr Obama's first term. While the credit for the changes rest with Myanmar's leaders, the US move from an approach of condemnation to listening with support has yielded results.

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