PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (November 19, 2012)--President Barack Obama is the first U.S. president to set foot in Cambodia, a country once known for the "killing fields" of its genocidal communist regime in the 1970s.
The White House made it clear that Mr. Obama is only in Cambodia to attend an East Asia summit, and said the visit isn't an endorsement of Cambodia's prime minister, Hun Sen, who’s been criticized for what some say is his violent, authoritarian rule.
Earlier, in a speech in Myanmar, Mr. Obama warned that the country's new civilian government has to nurture democracy, or watch it disappear along with U.S. support.
The president’s speech earlier at the University of Yangon was the first time he has spoken directly to the people of long-closed Myanmar.
He told them about freedom and the importance of finding strength in diversity, but, for some, the more significant message came from what he did, not what he said.
Mr. Obama is the first foreign leader President Thein Sein has met in Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, rather than in the capital, Naypyitaw.
The government said the location was chosen for logistical reasons, but many cheered Mr. Obama's decision to speak at the University of Yangon, a place brimming with opposition history and personal memories for many in the audience, rather than sequester himself with top leaders in the capital built by the former military regime.