Myanmar seeks eased sanctions during Thein Sein visit to U.S.

Myanmar President Thein Sein on Sunday told Burmese living in the United States that he will seek an easing of sanctions on his country.

"Foreign investments will bring factories and production, but if our products are being banned, nobody will come and invest in our country," Thein Sein said in a town hall-style meeting at the Voice of America office ahead of his meeting Monday with U.S. President Barack Obama.

"In that sense, sanctions are the second barrier for us. So if one really cares for democracy, for further development of democracy, one should care for economic development (in Myanmar) and care for removing the obstacles for development."

Thein Sein added that relations between Myanmar and the United States have improved since Obama took office.

"I came here mainly to strengthen our bilateral relationship and I will be updating President Obama on the latest developments in my country, the challenges that we are facing and our prospects. I would ask him for America's understanding of these challenges that we are facing and for help for us to solve some of the problems," he said.

Thein Sein also said there are "some doubts" in the United States about progress toward democracy in his country, particularly regarding relations with North Korea, but added those are now diplomatic, not defense-related.

"Actually, we don't really have the capacity to build nuclear weapons. We don't have money. We don't have technology. And nobody will come and help us made this thing...but of course we have to establish some relations with North Korea because in the past everything is under sanctions and we were in need to find somebody who could help us with our defense. So we did engage diplomatically."

"But I can say there is no military relationship since the new government came to power, only diplomatic relations," he said.

As to the 25 percent of seats in parliament set aside for Myanmar's military, Thein Sein told the Burmese residents in the United States he believes the proportion to be "appropriate."

Myanmar was long ruled by military juntas and only recently has allowed relatively free elections for some of the seats in the national government.

"I don't think it is right to sideline the army from Myanmar's politics. You cannot do that, but as we mature with a democratic system gradually, I am sure the number of military (seats) in the parliament will be reduced.

Thein Sein arrived in the United States on Saturday.