News / Asia

Burmese President Makes Historic Trip to Australia

President of Burma Thein Sein (R) meets with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, March 18, 2013.
President of Burma Thein Sein (R) meets with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, March 18, 2013.
Phil Mercer
— In the first visit to Australia by a Burmese head of state since 1974, President Thein Sein began talks Monday (March 18) with officials in Canberra.  Political reform, social development and trade will be on the agenda, while human rights groups are urging the Australian government to press the Burmese leader on the treatment of Rohingya Muslims and other ethnic minorities
 
Australia has acknowledged recent reforms by the Burmese government by easing more restrictions and says it will send a defense attaché and a trade commissioner to its Southeast Asian partner.
 
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the measures were part of growing Australian support for Burma as it continues to build a democracy and strengthen human rights.  However, Canberra’s arms embargo will remain in place.
 
Prime Minister Gillard called it a “first step” toward normalizing defense relationships and also announced aid aimed at helping pro-democracy groups.
 
"Today I am delighted to announce an important new component of our aid program, a partnership for reform between our two countries," she said. "A $20 million commitment to strengthen democratic institutions, deliver human rights training, improve economic governance and promote the rule of law."
 
President Thein Sein appeared at a news conference Monday with the prime minister, and said he believes the two countries are destined to be partners.
 
He says he hopes that Australia will be generous in sharing her knowledge and experiences. He says he feels certain that relations will now enter a new and special phase.
 
Human rights campaigners protested at the Burmese Embassy in Canberra and Parliament House at the start of President Thein Sein’s visit.  Their message is that human rights must come before trade and investment in discussions between the Australian government and the Burmese leader.  
 
Activists are alleging that hundreds of political prisoners remain behind bars in Burma, while they accuse the military of committing abuses against minority groups, including Rohingya Muslims.
 
Sean Turnell, an economist at Sydney’s Macquarie University, who closely watches events in Burma, says Australia must address these allegations.
 
“This is an issue, of course, that should be of concern to everyone, but it is an issue that is of concern to Australia because ultimately groups like that may well end up as part of the refugee flow to this country," he said. "So, I would imagine even for selfish reasons it would be an issue that Australia might be interested in talking to the Burmese president about.”     
 
Thein Sein, a former general, took office in March 2011, after Burma’s first election in 20 years.  He has led a process of reform after decades of military rule.
 
In Canberra, he has met the Prime Minister Julia Gillard, along with other senior officials and business leaders.   The Burmese president arrived in Australia following a trip to New Zealand, where he was promoting his country as a destination for foreign investment.  Burma is eager to revitalize its economy by overhauling its infrastructure, including roads, hotels and airports.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid