Thein Sein deplores violence
- Published: 17/11/2012 at 03:55 PM
- Online news:
YANGON: Deadly communal unrest is hampering Myanmar's reforms and causing it "to lose face" on the world stage, says President Thein Sein.
In unusually sharp comments ahead of a visit by US President Barack Obama, Thein Sein said it was "impossible to hide" events in Rakhine State from the international community.
The bloodshed has brought "a halt to Myanmar's development and lost face on the international stage", he was quoted as saying by the state-run New Light of Myanmar.
His comments echo those made in a letter on Friday to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon pledging to address issues at the core of hostility to the Rohingya, "ranging from resettlement of displaced populations to granting of citizenship".
The Rohingya, considered by the United Nations to be one of the most persecuted minorities on the planet, are seen by the government and many Burmese as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.
Using softer language on the issue, Thein Sein said his government would also look at "issues of birth registration, work permits and permits for movement across the country for all", said the letter.
Rakhine State remains volatile after being convulsed by two major outbreaks of fighting involving Buddhist and Muslim communities since June that have left 180 dead and more than 110,000, mainly Rohingya, crammed into makeshift camps.
Thein Sein's comments come just days before Barack Obama is due to arrive in Yangon for a short, but hugely symbolic, visit to the former junta-ruled nation.
Nearly a fortnight after he was re-elected, Obama will become the first sitting US president to visit the formerly isolated state, hoping to spur greater reform and to highlight a rare success for his policy of engaging pariah regimes.
Rights groups have criticised Thein Sein for a military crackdown in the region and accused opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi of staying mute on the highly contentious issue.
Washington is concerned that unrest in Rakhine, and other festering ethnic conflicts in Shan and Kachin states, risk undermining hopes of stability and Obama's remarks on the Rohingya will be closely watched.
Obama will meet Thein Sein and also Aung San Suu Kyi, whose failure to speak up for the embattled Rohingya has prompted criticism from rights groups and the Islamic world.
In a goodwill gesture ahead of Obama's trip, the US on Saturday scrapped a nearly decade-old ban on most imports from Myanmar, with the exception of gems, a sector seen as a major driver of corruption and violence.
About the author
- Writer: AFP
Position: News agency