Britain’s Foreign Secretary Calls for More Reforms in Burma

Posted January 6th, 2012 at 4:30 am (UTC-5)
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British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Friday the Burmese government needs to enact more reforms before sanctions on the country could be lifted.

Hague, the first British foreign secretary to visit Burma in more than 50 years, said that reforms undertaken so far by President Thein Sein raise hopes that democracy is within reach in the Southeast Asian nation.

But, he said critics need to keep up the pressure on Burma to do more, including releasing more political prisoners.

Hague met Thursday with President Thein Sein and other top officials in the administrative capital, Naypytaw. He then attended a private dinner with democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, followed by discussions with the Nobel peace laureate.

Aung San Suu Kyi cautioned Thursday that the democratic reforms started by Burma's nominally civilian government are not “unstoppable,'' and that the military still could block changes. But she expressed cautious optimism.

Her National League for Democracy received official approval Thursday to participate in parliamentary by-elections for 48 seats, set for April 1.

Aung San Suu Kyi also said that this year will show what progress has been made toward genuine democratization in Burma.

Hague's visit is similar to the one U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made in November. Both visits came after the new government took over in March and started a dialogue with the opposition and ethnic groups.

Aung San Suu Kyi's party boycotted general elections in 2010 because of electoral restrictions that prevented Aung San Suu Kyi from running. The new government has eased those restrictions making it possible for her to run for parliament.

In Burma's 1990 election, the then-ruling military government refused to accept the opposition National League for Democracy party's national election victory.