News / Asia

Britain to Maintain Sanctions Until Burma Frees Political Prisoners

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague talks to reporters after meeting with Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi at her home in Rangoon January 6, 2012
Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague talks to reporters after meeting with Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi at her home in Rangoon January 6, 2012

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, on a visit to Burma, says European Union economic sanctions will not change until authorities release all political prisoners.  The top British diplomat made the comments after holding separate meetings with democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma’s military-backed leaders. 

Hague held talks Friday morning with Burma’s opposition and Aung San Suu Kyi at her lakeside home in Rangoon. Hague’s visit is the first in more than 50 years by the former colonial power’s top diplomat.

Following the meeting, the British foreign secretary told reporters it was an exciting time in Burma as there was a real chance for democracy in the country after decades of military rule.

He voiced support for the government’s reform efforts, including opening a dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, loosening its iron grip on the media, allowing labor unions, and releasing some political prisoners.

But, Hague said much more needs to be done, in particular, giving freedom to all remaining political prisoners, estimated to be in the hundreds.  He acknowledged widespread disappointment this week with the government’s Independence Day amnesty, which saw only about 30 such prisoners released.

“It is not possible to say a country is free and democratic while people are still in prison on grounds of their political beliefs.  And, so it is vital for such prisoners to be released if European Union restrictive measures are to be changed,” Hague said.

The EU and United States limit diplomatic relations, trade and investments with Burma because of the military’s violent suppression of democracy movements. But expectations are growing that those restrictions could soon be relaxed.

The EU announced Thursday it would open a representative office in Burma to manage humanitarian aid programs and facilitate political dialogue.

Hague met the same day with leaders of the government, including President Thein Sein, who promised all political prisoners would be released without giving a timetable.

His government is also allowing Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy to contest by-elections in April after being sidelined from the historic 2010 election.  The Nobel Prize winner told reporters Friday her goals were clear.

“All political prisoners should be released and there should be all efforts made to put an end to ethnic conflict within our country," she said.  "And, certainly we would like to see free and fair by-elections.  And, I must add I would like to see the NLD winning very well in those elections.”  

Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest for most of the past two decades for challenging military rule and was banned from contesting office.

She was released just days after the 2010 election.  Her NLD won Burma’s previous election in 1990 but the military refused to give up power.


You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs