Obama declares 'new chapter' for US, Myanmar

By ANNE GEARAN | May 17, 2012 | 3:09 PM EDT

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi looks at a photo during the opening ceremony of a photo exhibition entitled "Aung San Suu Kyi, The Burmese Way to Democracy" at Institute of French in Yangon, Myanmar, Thursday, May 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is declaring a "new chapter" in U.S. relations with Myanmar, the former pariah state also known as Burma.

Obama says the U.S. is rewarding democratic progress in Myanmar with announcement of the first U.S. ambassador in 22 years and an easing of investment restrictions. Obama's comments on those developments came in a statement issued by the White House.

Obama says opening up greater economic engagement will help support reformers and speed development.

He pointed to the parliamentary election of opposition figure Aung San Suu Kyi as a prominent example of progress.

But Obama says the U.S. remains concerned about a closed political system and human rights issues in Myanmar. The U.S. is retaining sanctions on individuals accused of human rights violations.