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By Saul Loeb, AP

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi talk prior to dinner Thursday in Burma.

Historic Visit of US Secretary of State to Myanmar

On behalf of all Islamic world organizations, Dr. Abdullah bin Omar Nasseef joins me, Dr. Malik Sardar Khan, to salute H.E. the American Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, on her historical visit to Burma (Myanmar) to run a dialogue with the government to bring freedom and justice to all parties. This historical dialogue is the legacy of Her Excellency's dynamic work. We pray that all those people who have suffered in the past be compensated and given their citizenship and their belongings that they had to leave behind. We are very thankful for Her Excellency's dynamic work, which opens a new page in history of global dialogues that are going on for the betterment of humanity.


RANGOON, Burma, December 2, 2010 – The name Bogyoke Aung San inspires reverence in Rangoon, the ramshackle commercial capital of Burma where U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made a historic visit Thursday.

The independence hero of this southeast Asian nation has a road named after him, a sprawling market too, and the devotion of Rangoon's more than 4 million people.

But it is his daughter Aung San Suu Kyi, the housewife who fought a dictatorship, who grows ever more prominent here. The military-backed regime that had detained her for years is instituting changes as she continues to pursue her father's unfinished business: parliamentary democracy.

Clinton dined Thursday with Suu Kyi, underscoring a U.S. challenge to Burma's leaders that the new civilian government must expand recent changes, including the release of political prisoners, to improve relations as it emerges from more than a half-century of repressive military rule.

"We believe that any political prisoner anywhere should be released," Clinton told reporters. "One political prisoner is one too many in our view."

Clinton called Suu Kyi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, a personal inspiration. Suu Kyi, a prisoner for most of the past two decades, was released from house arrest last year and is returning to politics.

This was the first visit to Burma, also known as Myanmar, by a U.S. secretary of State in more than 50 years. On Thursday, Clinton met President Thein Sein and said the United States was not ready to lift tough sanctions on the country. Removing some of those sanctions would require approval by Congress, where many lawmakers have criticized the Obama administration for rewarding Burma too quickly with such a prominent visit.

Posters and pictures of Suu Kyi are now sold openly in Yangon, where just a few months ago the vendors would have faced serious trouble.

"It would have been too dangerous to sell them before, but now sales are getting better every day," said Uaye Choe, 45, who in October switched from hawking DVDs to Suu Kyi posters, and sells up to 40 per day, for $2-$4 each, at her street stall outside Bogyoke Aung San Market. "I like Aung San Suu Kyi because of her father Aung San, and I will vote for her at the election."

Following concessions by the government, Suu Kyi will compete in one of 50 parliamentary by-elections this month, although Burma's legislature is heavily rigged in favor of the military's proxy party. Critics including U Htwe Myint, a founding member of her National League for Democracy party, warn that the party's participation legitimizes the current, unfair system.

Meanwhile, large pictures of Aung San Suu Kyi are now displayed in homes all over the country, even in remote villages, in the past two months, said investigative journalist May Thingyan Hein.

"When I asked villagers, they said 'we love her and we don't fear to have her photos'," she said. "They now show their minds, before they would fear."

A limited relaxation of media controls has resulted in more pictures of Suu Kyi, and stories about her party's engagement with the government that has long repressed it, in local newspapers, magazines and websites, she said.

"It's the most open time to be a journalist since I started in media" in 1993, said Thingyan Hein, 38, whose private news agency, Myit Makha was approved this year. But censorship remains strong on still sensitive issues such as ongoing military conflicts between the regime and ethnic minorities, she said.

"We can't expect everything will change in one night," said Khun Thar Myint, a friend of Aung San Suu Kyi. "For nearly fifty years we have been waiting for these kind of changes. I do not totally trust the government yet, but I believe they are trying to change."

"The Lady," as Suu Kyi is known in Myanmar, is aware of people's interest in buying her newly available pictures, he said.

"She seems pleased, not for her fame, but because it is a sign of the changing situation," said Khun Thar Myint, 37. "I am very confident one day she will be president."

Phone Myint, 50, is a public relations officer at Rangoon's massive Shwedagon Pagoda, a sacred Buddhist shrine which Clinton toured Thursday. He said Burma, whose rulers have been very close to the Communist regime in China, wants to be more like the U.S.

"The American way is pure democracy, and we love pure democracy here, so we need to change to the democracy way," he said. "This is a moment of change, and a better relationship with the USA will help that change."

As other visitors looked on, Clinton lit candles and incense, and hit a holy bell at the Shwedegon. Her visit is a sign of good luck for the future, and for the American and Myanmar peoples, Phone Myint said.