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

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project 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.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid