News / Asia

Burmese Leader Promises Release of All Political Prisoners

Burma’s President Visits London Amid Accusations Of Ethnic Cleansingi
X
July 16, 2013 1:42 AM
On his first visit to London, President Thein Sein of Burma has held talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron on trade and military cooperation, as Western countries look to increase engagement with the formerly isolated country. But despite its improved relations with the West, human rights groups accuse the Burmese government of attempted ethnic cleansing, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Watch a Report by VOA's Henry Ridgwell.
Reuters
President Thein Sein, the first leader of Burma to visit Britain in more than 25 years, promised to release all his country's political prisoners by the year's end after his host, Prime Minister David Cameron, pressed him to speed up reforms.
 
Cameron, who visited the former military dictatorship last year, asked Thein Sein to ensure the constitution was changed to allow opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to contest a presidential election in 2015 and urged him to halt inter-ethnic violence against Burma's Muslim minority.
 
“We very much welcome the reform process you are undertaking in your country and look forward to free, fair and open elections in 2015,” Cameron told Thein Sein. He was ready to help spur the economic and political transition of the one-time British colony with aid money, his office said in a statement.
 
Thein Sein, a former military commander, wants the West to help the economy of the former Burma recover from decades of dictatorship, Soviet-style planning and international sanctions, but rights groups say the West should proceed cautiously until he enacts deeper reforms.
 
Thein Sein said on Sunday that he had disbanded a security force accused of rights violations against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State in the west of Burma, scene of deadly violence between Muslims and majority Buddhists in the past year.
 
He has already freed some political prisoners, and in a speech at the Chatham House think tank promised to free all those remaining by the end of this year, saying a special committee was tackling the backlog.
 
“I guarantee to you that by the end of this year there will be no prisoners of conscience in Burma,” said Thein Sein.
 
“Over the last two and a half years, we have embarked upon a transformation which I believe is unprecedented.”
 
He also said he was close to brokering a nationwide ceasefire to end long-running ethnic conflicts.
 
Religious Violence
 
But rights activists were unimpressed. About 30 members of the campaign group Avaaz protested outside the British parliament with a banner reading: “Cameron - Don't let Burma become the next Rwanda”, a reference to the 1994 genocide when hundreds of thousands were killed.

At least 237 people have been killed in Burma in religious violence over the past year and about 150,000 have been displaced. Most of the victims were Muslim and the deadliest incidents happened in Rakhine, where about 800,000 Rohingya Muslims live, according to the United Nations.

One activist waiting for Thein Sein outside his central London hotel held a placard that read: “Wanted for War Crimes: President Thein Sein. Do not Reward.”

On a two-day visit to talk trade, aid and democracy at a time when mineral-rich Burma is opening up its oil, gas and telecoms sectors to foreign investors, Thein Sein was vague about future investment opportunities, mentioning only the tourism and healthcare sectors in broad terms.

Cameron's office said the two men had discussed developing links between their respective armies and “educational partnerships for English language training”.

Western leaders have praised Thein Sein for ending the house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other reforms, but want him to loosen the military's grip further.

Rushanara Ali, a lawmaker from the opposition Labor party, said Britain's voice could make a difference.

“It is important not to underestimate the soft-power influence that Britain has on the Burmese government. We've got a unique responsibility,” she told Reuters.

Thein Sein this year became the first leader of his country since 1966 to visit the White House. After leaving Britain, he is due to travel on to France.

You May Like

Mugabe Dismisses Male-Female Equality

'It is not possible that women can be at par with men' incoming African Union president declares on eve of summit More

Somali Terror Suspect's Light Sentence Raises Questions

Abdullahi Yusuf, 18, could have spent 15 years in prison but judge instead sentenced him to a halfway house, and a program to try to integrate him back into the community More

Video Kobani Ravaged Following Kurdish Ouster of IS Militants

Even so, hundreds of refugees sheltering in Turkey seek to return; Kurdish forces hold some back, saying fighting continues 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.
Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Goghi
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid