Top pictures from the past 24 hours: in this picture, survivors carry aid and belongings from the ruins of a refugee camp. At least 42 people died in a fire at a camp which is home to thousands of refugees from Myanmar, near the Thai-Myanmar border on Friday, local media reported.
It may have sounded good on paper: Win re-election, fly to Asia, soak up the adulation of fellow world leaders, then go home with at least a few tangible rewards to show for a legacy-shaping U.S. strategic shift eastwards.
But U.S. President Barack Obama’s first post-election trip abroad did not work out exactly according to plan.
To be sure, he had a chance to tout a foreign policy success with a landmark visit to the former pariah state of Myanmar, demonstrate he was serious about improved U.S. ties with nations in China’s backyard and take in a travelogue’s worth of iconic religious and cultural sights.
But even as Obama sought to strengthen his administration’s “Asia pivot,” he came face-to-face with the tough realities of what it will take to counter China’s influence in the region.
At the same time, he found his attention constantly diverted back to the world’s biggest hotspot, the Middle East, where a Gaza crisis raged on.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi is making a career change, from icon of liberty opposing Myanmar’s junta to party boss in a fragile new quasi-democracy. The transition hasn’t been easy.
At a talk in London in June, a student from the Kachin ethnic minority asked why Suu Kyi (a majority Burman) seemed reluctant to condemn a bloody government military offensive against Kachin rebels. The conflict has displaced some 75,000 people.
Suu Kyi’s answer was studiously neutral: “We want to know what’s happening more clearly before we condemn one party or the other.”
Special Report: Suu Kyi’s perilous pivot from icon to party boss
U.S. praise for Myanmar grows by the day, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton still cannot bring herself to use the name of the country in the presence of officials from the former Burma.
It appears Clinton did not wish to offend Myanmar’s government and its diplomats in Phnom Penh by referring to the country by the name officially used in Washington, Burma - two short syllables that rile the former generals who now lead its nascent democracy.
The dilemma dates back to 1989, a year after thousands were killed in the suppression of a popular uprising, when the army changed the name to Myanmar, a name the United States never accepted because it would have conferred legitimacy on the former generals.
Many of those generals swapped their military fatigues for civilian clothes in a rigged 2010 election that cleared the way for a surprisingly reformist parliament that took office last year, ending 49 years of unbroken military rule.
This village in northwest Myanmar has the besieged air of a refugee camp. It is clogged with people living in wooden shacks laid out on a grid of trash-strewn lanes. Its children are pot-bellied with malnutrition.
But Takebi’s residents are not refugees. They are Rohingya, a stateless Muslim people of South Asian descent now at the heart of Myanmar’s worst sectarian violence in years. The United Nations has called them “virtually friendless” in Myanmar, the majority-Buddhist country that most Rohingya call home. Today, as Myanmar opens up, they appear to have more enemies than ever.
Armed with machetes and bamboo spears, rival mobs of Rohingya Muslims and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists this month torched one another’s houses and transformed nearby Sittwe, the capital of the western state of Rakhine, into a smoke-filled battleground. A torrent of Rohingyas has tried to flee Rakhine into impoverished Bangladesh, but most are being pushed back, a Bangladeshi Border Guard commander told Reuters on Thursday.
SPECIAL REPORT: Plight of Muslim minority threatens Myanmar Spring
As Myanmar prepares to vote in only its third election in 50 years, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party faces a challenge that seems at odds with her global celebrity and long fight for democracy: brand recognition.
“I’m worried that some people think that this represents our party,” says Dr May Win Myint, a candidate in her National League for Democracy (NLD), pointing to the logo of the rival National Democratic Force (NDF), created by former NLD members.
Its dominant feature is the traditional bamboo hat worn by Myanmar’s farmers and widely associated with Suu Kyi loyalists.
A fire engulfs huts in the Um-Piam refugee camp for refugees from Myanmar in Thailand’s Tak Province, 426 kilometers (265 miles) west of Bangkok February 23, 2012.
Um-Piam is the second largest refugee camp along the Thai-Myanmar border, which houses more than 15,000 Burmese refugees who fled the fighting between ethnic minority groups and the Myanmar government. More than 200 homes have been destroyed. [REUTERS/Stringer]