Hague kicks off historic Myanmar visit with call for reform

5th January 2012, Comments 0 comments

British Foreign Secretary William Hague called on Myanmar to release all of its political prisoners as he began a historic visit to meet the country's leaders on Thursday.

Hague's two-day trip, the first visit by a British foreign minister in more than 50 years, will begin in the capital, Naypyidaw, where he will meet new president Thein Sein.

He will have two meetings with recently-freed democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi before flying to the southern city of Yangon.

"I am visiting the country to encourage the (Myanmar) government to continue on its path of reform, and to gauge what more Britain can do to support this process," Hague said before leaving Britain.

"Further steps are needed that will have a lasting impact on human rights and political freedom," added the statement released by the Foreign Office.

"In particular, we hope to see the release of all remaining political prisoners, free and fair by-elections, humanitarian access to people in conflict areas, and credible steps towards national reconciliation."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, from November 30 to December 2, while British International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell travelled there in mid-November.

"Our common objective is to see political freedom in Burma, and constructive engagement which helps further that goal is very important," Hague said.

Clinton, who was the first US secretary of state to visit Myanmar in more than 50 years, said she saw "openings" during her three-day trip that "give us some grounds for encouragement."

President Thein Sein, while a former general, has surprised both the United States and the opposition for speaking the language of reforms and initiating dialogue with ethnic minorities.

Clinton met both Thein Sein and Suu Kyi.

© 2012 AFP

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