President is second Obama to pay a visit to Myanmar

  • Updated: November 17, 2012 - 6:09 PM

When President Obama lands in Yangon on Monday, he will be the first sitting U.S. president to visit the country now known as Myanmar. But he will not be the first Obama to visit.

The president's Kenyan grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, spent part of World War II in Burma as a cook for the British. The elder Obama's Asian experience proved formative just as his grandson's time growing up in Indonesia did decades later.

"His roots go through Burma," said Timothy Parsons, an African history professor at Washington University who wrote a book on the colonial East African military. "It is kind of an odd intersection of his life. It's like the three corners of the triangle come together -- America, East Africa and Southeast Asia."

Thant Myint-U, a Burmese historian, said the president may be able to connect with the country in a way another U.S. leader might not.

"The Burma that the president will see will look amazingly similar to the Burma his grandfather saw in the 1940s," he said. "But what will not be readily visible are the effects of more than six decades of armed conflict, half a century of dictatorship and self-imposed isolation and 20 years of Western sanctions."

NEW YORK TIMES

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