Burma to free all political prisoners, says Thein Sein

Thein Sein and David Cameron (15 July 2013) David Cameron (right) told President Thein Sein Burma needed greater action on human rights

Burma will release all political prisoners "by the end of the year", President Thein Sein has said during his first official visit to the UK.

The president made the remarks during a speech in London, after holding talks with Prime Minister David Cameron.

Burma, also known as Myanmar, has freed hundreds of political detainees since Thein Sein took power in March 2010.

Up until then, it barely acknowledged the prisoners' existence. Their release is part of ongoing political reforms.

"By the end of the year there will be no prisoners of conscience in Myanmar," President Thein Sein said on Monday.

He added that a special committee was reviewing every political inmate's case.

The president is in Britain to discuss trade and military ties. He wants help to boost Burma's economy and Western nations are keen to invest in the resource-rich nation.

Sectarian violence

Earlier, Mr Cameron told the Burmese president greater action was needed on human rights.

The British PM said he was "particularly concerned" about the treatment of Rohingya Muslims in Buddhist-majority Burma.

Sectarian violence in Rakhine state last year left some 200 people dead and tens of thousands - mostly Rohingya people - displaced.

Burmese authorities have been accused of failing to stop the violence and adequately safeguard the rights of Muslims.

But the government says Rohingya people are relatively recent migrants from the Indian sub-continent, and so the country's constitution does not include them among indigenous groups qualifying for citizenship.

President Thein Sein has introduced major reforms since the elections of November 2010, which saw military rule replaced with a military-backed civilian government.

Many political prisoners have been freed and media restrictions have been relaxed.

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy - which boycotted the November 2010 polls - has rejoined the political process and now has a small presence in parliament.

In response, most international sanctions against Burma have been relaxed.

More on This Story

Burma's Transition

More Asia stories


Features & Analysis

  • Cartoon of women chatting on the metroChat wagon

    The interesting things you hear in a women-only carriage

  • Replica of a cargo boxSpecial delivery

    The man who posted himself to the other side of the world

  • Music scoreNo encore Watch

    Goodbye to NYC's last classical sheet music shop

  • Jon Sopel'Emailgate'

    Hillary gets a taste of scrutiny that lies ahead

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • Audi R8Best in show

    BBC Autos takes a look at 10 of the most eye-catching new cars at the 2015 Geneva motor show


  • A robotClick Watch

    The latest in robotics including software that can design electronics to solve problems

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.