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Southeast Asia, explained

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US President Barack Obama speaks at the Washington Convention Center on March 4, 2012 in Washington, DC. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

As the 2012 US presidential race ramps up, President Barack Obama is already presenting Burma, Southeast Asia's pariah on the mend, as the premier example of a nation led out of the dark by America's bright moral light.

"We made it clear that America is a Pacific power. We demonstrated that if countries like Burma travel down the road of democratic reform, they will find a new relationship with the United States," Obama said at a campaign event televised by MSNBC.

"We're leading again by the power of our moral example. That’s what change is.”

Burma, officially titled Myanmar, does indeed have a fresh relationship with the Obama administration.

But America has only begun to crack the country's shell. Heavy sanctions remain. And some might say that the threat of Chinese hegemony, along with the promise of a Western investment boom, has proven more compelling to Burma's reform-minded leaders than America's "moral example."

Still, it appears that Obama is already comfortable highlighting Burma as a success story.

He could even point out that engaging Burma has been a bi-partisan effort: Democrat stalwart Hillary Clinton and Republican Sen. John McCain have taken turns flying over to parlay with Burma's rulers.

But does Burma's new dawn motivate many voters?

Of course not. This soundbyte would probably have gone largely unnoticed if Obama hasn't uttered it seconds before a back-and-forth with a heckler shouting about Iran.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/southeast-asia/obama-be-burma

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