Burmese Leader to Consider Rights for Rohingya Minority

Posted November 17th, 2012 at 4:05 am (UTC-5)
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Burma's president has pledged to consider new rights for the stateless Rohingya minority ahead of a landmark visit by U.S. President Barack Obama.

In a letter to the United Nations Friday, Thein Sein condemned what he called “senseless violence” in western Rakhine state between local Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya.

The Burmese leader said he would look into easing the work and travel restrictions placed on the Rohingya to bring the measures up to “accepted international norms.”

The U.N. called Thein Sein's letter “a step in the right direction.”

Many Burmese consider the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, but Bangladesh also does not recognize them as citizens.

U.S. President Barack Obama becomes the first U.S. president to ever visit Burma on Monday.

The White House says Mr. Obama will meet with Thein Sein, opposition leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi and other officials to “encourage Burma's ongoing democratic transition.”

The U.S. has suspended sanctions on Burma and removed an import ban in recognition of Thein Sein's political and economic reforms after half a century of military rule, but Washington still wants him to end ethnic conflict and release all political prisoners.

Some activists have warned that President Obama's trip risks rewarding a government that still has a poor human rights record. Human Rights Watch has called the trip “premature.”

President Obama will also travel to Cambodia and Thailand.