Obama extending 'hand of friendship' to Myanmar

Myanmar Obama Scarred University

In this picture taken on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, student leaders of a successive uprising, from left, Zaw Zaw Min, Hla Shwe, and Ragu Ne Myint walk outside the main gate of the University of Yangon, where President Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver a speech on Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, in Yangon, Myanmar. Since colonial times, the fight for change in Myanmar has begun on this leafy campus. It was a center of the struggle for independence against Britain and served as a launching point for pro-democracy protests in 1962, 1974, 1988 and 1996. For many, the school has today become a symbol of the country�s ruined education system and a monument to a half century of misrule. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

APTOPIX Thailand Obama Asia

U.S. President Barack Obama, center, and Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra acknowledge each other at a joint news conference at the Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Thailand Obama Asia

U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra hold a joint press conference at the Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

APTOPIX Thailand Obama Asia

U.S. President Barack Obama, right on red carpet, and Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, left on red carpet, attend the arrival ceremony at Thai Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Thailand US Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra toast during an official dinner at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Thailand Obama Asia

U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra arrive for a joint press conference at the Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Thailand Obama Asia

in this photo provided by Thailand's Royal Household Bureau, U.S. President Barack Obama, left, talks with Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Royal Household Bureau)

President Barack Obama says he is making his historic visit to Myanmar to "extend the hand of friendship" to a nation that is moving from persecution to peace. But he says the country's democratic transition has just begun and must not be allowed to slide.
Obama was on his way from Thailand to Myanmar, also known as Burma, on Monday morning local time. The White House released excerpts of a speech he was giving later in the day to university students.
Obama is the first U.S. president to visit the country.
He says that in the last year and a half, Myanmar has loosened the grip of dictatorship, freed hundreds of political prisoners and ushered in a civilian government. Obama said such "flickers of progress" must not be extinguished.