Written statement to Parliament

Visit of President U Thein Sein of Burma

The Foreign Secretary William Hague has updated Parliament on the visit of President U Thein Sein of Burma.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Rt Hon William Hague

The Foreign Secretary William Hague said:

From 14-16 July Burma’s President Thein Sein visited the United Kingdom for discussions with the Prime Minister, the Defence Secretary, the Secretary of State for International Development, Lord Green and me.

This was the first official visit of a Burmese President to the UK. It was an opportunity to discuss with President Thein Sein the significant political reforms his government has achieved over the last two years, including releases of political prisoners, ceasefire agreements with ten out of eleven ethnic armed groups, and steps to increase freedom of expression. It was also an opportunity to urge further progress in areas where additional reforms are needed.

The Prime Minister and I also raised our concerns about a wide range of human rights and ethnic issues, including the continuing plight of the Rohingya community in Rakhine State. I welcomed the President’s announcement of the abolition of the Nasaka security forces in Rakhine State. The President committed himself during his visit to releasing all political prisoners by the end of 2013, and said that he hoped over the coming weeks to achieve a nationwide ceasefire with the ethnic armed groups. The President also welcomed our initiative on preventing sexual violence in conflict. He acknowledged the need to reform the constitution ahead of the 2015 elections.

The Secretary of State for International Development emphasised the need for the President’s leadership on ethnic reconciliation, peace-building and inclusive growth, and confirmed our continued commitment to supporting Burma, notably helping foster private investment, jobs and better livelihoods, advance healthcare and schooling, bolster peace-building, and provide humanitarian aid to people hurt by conflict and ethnic violence. She also announced £10m for the 2014 Census, £5.65 million to support Burma’s economic development and £13.5m for a humanitarian programme in Kachin delivering food, shelter, water and adequate sanitation.

We emphasised the importance of reforming the Burmese military and of pursuing a sustainable ethnic peace process. The focus of our future defence engagement in Burma will be on adherence to the core principles of democratic accountability and human rights. The Defence Secretary offered to support the participation of around 30 Burmese officers in the British military’s flagship ‘Managing Defence in the Wider Security Context’ course in January 2014. We sought assurances from the President that any links to the DPRK, contrary to UN Security Council Resolutions, have ended.

The President met a range of British businesses at events hosted by the UK ASEAN Business Council, and discussed the importance of transparency, building a stable regulatory framework and harnessing private investment for the good of the people. We will offer our support to develop Burma’s financial services sector; Lord Green launched the Financial Services Task Force, which will support the development of financial services in Burma to help facilitate economic growth.

The British Government will continue to work with the Burmese government and build constructive ties to secure long term democratic development and reform, while making clear, both directly and through the UN, our human rights concerns, especially in the areas affected by ethnic conflict.

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Published 17 July 2013