UK ready for Burma progress, says Hague
Thursday 05 January 2012
Britain stands ready to "respond positively" to improvements in human rights and political freedoms in Burma, Foreign Secretary William Hague told the south-east Asian country's leaders during a historic visit today.
He is the first British Foreign Secretary to visit Burma for more than 50 years, and his trip - a month after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - marks a further step in the country's return to the international fold following years of hardline military rule.
Mr Hague met President Thein Sein, who unexpectedly embarked on a series of liberalising measures after coming to office last year, including opening talks with the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, releasing more than 200 political prisoners, and legalising trade unions.
Mr Hague used their talks in capital Naypyidaw to urge the president to continue reforms, free political prisoners and hold "credible" elections.
"I emphasised the importance the British Government attaches to the reforms that the Burmese Government has undertaken in the last six months, and my sincere hope that there will be further progress in the weeks and months ahead," said Mr Hague.
"I made clear that the British Government expects to see the release of all political prisoners, credible by-elections in April, and a genuine alleviation of the suffering in ethnic areas, including through humanitarian access and peace talks.
"I spoke of the long-standing friendship that exists between our two peoples, one that can and should form the foundation of improved relations across the board between our two countries.
"I made clear that the British Government stands ready to respond positively to evidence of further progress towards that lasting improvement in human rights and political freedom that the people of Burma seek."
Aung Sang Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has now re-registered as a political party and will contest a series of 48 parliamentary by-elections due to take place on April 1, in what is being seen as an important test of the reform process.
But critics of the Burmese regime caution that significant numbers of political prisoners - variously estimated to number between 590 and 1,700 - remain behind bars, despite government promises to free them, while reports of abuses against ethnic minorities continue.
Britain is pushing for a process of national reconciliation to end the fighting between the government and the country's ethnic minorities, such as the Kachins, and to bring them into the mainstream political process.
Following his visit to Naypyidaw, where he also met Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin and Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann, Mr Hague travelled to the former capital, Rangoon, for meetings with Aung San Suu Kyi, former political prisoners and ethnic leaders.
In a message on Mr Hague's Facebook page, Ms Suu Kyi said: "Britain and British politicians have provided us with invaluable support over the last 23 years.
"Foreign Secretary William Hague's visit will enable him to assess the present situation in Burma. It will also give me an opportunity to get to know better a man I have long regarded as a good friend of our country."
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
- 3 World Book Day: Boy 'excluded' from school after dressing up as Fifty Shades' Christian Grey
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Harrison Ford plane crash: Actor will make full recovery thanks to 'beautifully executed' landing
Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
Oxford whistleblower's attempt to protect young victim of a sadistic gang went unheeded
How Homer Simpson discovered the Higgs boson over a decade before scientists
The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Elif Shafak: Turkish author warns against rise of British nationalism
Ex-head of MI6: 'We shouldn't kid ourselves that Russia is on a path to democracy'
Most people think legal tax avoidance is just as wrong as illegal tax evasion, poll suggests
£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...
£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A long-established, technology rich ...
£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This growing digital marketing ...
£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Midland's leading Solar Panels provi...