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Cameron raises Rohingya crisis with Thein Sein

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Grave issue:Avaaz, Burma Campaign UK supporters wear masks representing British Prime Minister David Cameron and Myanmar's President Thein Sein as they protest outside Parliament in London on Monday.— Photo: AP
Grave issue:Avaaz, Burma Campaign UK supporters wear masks representing British Prime Minister David Cameron and Myanmar's President Thein Sein as they protest outside Parliament in London on Monday.— Photo: AP

British Prime Minister David Cameron called on Monday on visiting Myanmar President Thein Sein to take “greater action” to promote human rights and said he was “particularly concerned” about the Rohingya Muslims.

“We very much welcome the reform process you are undertaking in your country and look forward to free, fair and open elections in 2015,” said Mr. Cameron as he welcomed the former general who heads a military-backed civilian government that came to power in 2011 after decades of army rule.

Britain wanted to develop trade and investment between the two countries, Mr. Cameron said but added that London was “also very keen to see greater action on promoting human rights and dealing with regional conflicts”.

“We are particularly concerned about what has happened in Rakhine province and the Rohingya Muslims,” he said.

Myanmar has embarked on extensive political reforms under Mr. Thein Sein, but sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya communities broke out in Rakhine State last year, leaving 167 people, mostly Muslims, dead and about 140,000 displaced.

Dozens were killed this year in anti-Muslim riots in the centre and north of the country.

Thein Sein’s visit was the first by a President from Myanmar, a former British colony. During his two-day trip, he was also to meet Foreign Secretary William Hague and the Ministers responsible for development, trade and investment.

Mr. Hague wrote on Twitter that he would discuss the Rohingya, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners and an end to ethnic conflict with Mr. Thein Sein.

A small group of human rights campaigners held a demonstration outside Parliament, protesting Britain’s decision to invite Mr. Thein Sein and warning that Myanmar could face a genocide similar to that in Rwanda in 1994.

“Twenty years after Rwanda, the warning signs of another large-scale slaughter are right in front of us,” said Ricken Patel, executive director at the advocacy group Avaaz.

“The ethnic cleansing attacks on the Rohingya and other Muslims should be ringing alarm bells everywhere,” he said.

The rights group Avaaz Burma Campaign UK said Mr. Thein Sein’s past meant he was not the right person to lead reform in the country and accused Britain of prioritising trade over human rights. — DPA


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