UK ready for Burma progress, says Hague

 

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."

PA

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Ashdown Group: Senior .Net Developer - Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A long-established, technology rich ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Project Manager

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This growing digital marketing ...

Recruitment Genius: Electrical Quality Supervisor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Midland's leading Solar Panels provi...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable