Obama's trip "risks providing an undeserved seal of approval to the military-dominated government that is still violating human rights," Brad Adams, the group's Asia director, said in a statement.
The decision to visit Myanmar reflects Obama's belief that his presence can "lock in" progress there, White House National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said on Nov. 15. The visit also has the backing of key Republicans in Congress.
"I want to commend him for going," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.. "I think it is an important step for him to take."
The U.S. on Nov. 16 began easing a decade-long ban on imports from Myanmar, while still blocking jadeite and rubies. The administration is also taking initial steps to resume military relations, through discussions about humanitarian aid and non-lethal military ties, a senior U.S. defense official said a day earlier.
Left, U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are escorted around the grounds as they visit the Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon.