Myanmar leader visits Britain, may be challenged on human rights

LONDON Mon Jul 15, 2013 8:18am IST

Myanmar's President Thein Sein gives a speech during a launch ceremony for a rural development and social economy improvement program, at a stadium in Yangon June 2, 2013.REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

Myanmar's President Thein Sein gives a speech during a launch ceremony for a rural development and social economy improvement program, at a stadium in Yangon June 2, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun

Related Topics

LONDON (Reuters) - President Thein Sein, the first leader of Myanmar to visit Britain in more than a quarter of a century, will hold talks on Monday with Prime Minister David Cameron, who is under pressure to confront him on human rights.

Sein is due to talk trade, aid and democracy with Cameron and his ministers during a two-day visit at a time when Myanmar is opening up its oil, gas and telecoms sectors to foreign investors, with further liberalisation likely.

Sein, a former military commander, is trying to get the West to help Myanmar's economy recover from decades of military dictatorship, Soviet-style planning and international sanctions.

Western leaders have praised him for ending the house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, releasing some political prisoners, and allowing the opposition to contest an election.

But they want him to loosen further the military's grip on the mineral-rich state formerly known as Burma before a 2015 presidential election which the British-educated Suu Kyi hopes to contest.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate, visited Britain last year.

Sein is also under pressure to act to protect Myanmar's small Muslim minority from inter-ethnic violence.

"Prime Minister Cameron should not miss an important opportunity to press Burma's president on justice for crimes against humanity committed against the country's Muslims, the release of remaining political prisoners, or an end to repressive laws," said New York-based Human Rights Watch.

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

Avaaz, a global campaign group, plans a demonstration outside the British parliament on Monday, saying almost a million people have signed a petition calling for an end to inter-ethnic violence in Myanmar.

It said the bloodshed risked escalating to become the next Rwanda - a reference to the bloody inter-ethnic violence there in 1994 in which hundreds of thousands were killed.

A spokesman for the British Foreign Office said: "We want to recognise the remarkable reforms of the last 18 months but also to raise at the highest levels our ongoing concerns, particularly about inter-communal and anti-Muslim violence."

Britain will press Sein to improve humanitarian access, to address accountability for crimes, and to end discrimination against the Muslim Rohingya community, he said.

Cameron visited Myanmar last year, and Sein, who remains close to the military, this year became the first leader of his country since 1966 to visit the White House.

His British trip is thought to be the first since the late General Ne Win, who ruled Burma for 26 years, visited in 1986.

Sein is expected to visit France afterwards.

(Editing by Alistair Lyon)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Mideast Conflict

MH17 Crash

MH17 Crash

Experts recover human remains at Ukraine crash site despite new fighting  Full Article 

Collateral Damage

Collateral Damage

How Iran sanctions fears hurt humanitarian trade  Full Article 

Ebola Outbreak

Ebola Outbreak

WHO chief says Ebola out of control but can be stopped  Full Article 

Graft in China

Graft in China

Exclusive - China's Xi likely to promote army general who exposed graft: sources  Full Article 

Sanctions on Russia

Sanctions on Russia

Russia has reserves to ride out sanctions - assuming no panic  Full Article 

Anti-gay Law

Anti-gay Law

Ugandan court overturns anti-gay law that halted Western aid  Full Article 

Iraq Crisis

Iraq Crisis

Iraqi foreign minister blames Maliki for Islamist insurgency  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage