Photo by Andrew Cowie/AFP
Research article by Work Experience student Bathsheba Whitaker, aged 15
On Monday 15 July Burma's president Thein Sein visited David Cameron and his Foreign Secretary. Human Rights campaigners were concerned that trade would be the top priority rather than the increasingly alarming state of human rights in Burma.
Thein Sein was welcomed to 10 Downing Street with a red carpet, which triggered protests from many different ethnic groups including the representatives of the Kachin National Organisation. This group issued a statement on Monday afternoon criticising the British Government for their warm welcome of the Burma President, who in the eyes of many of the Kachin is a war criminal.
Last year David Cameron, who was the first British Prime Minister to visit Burma since the country gained its independence is 1948, said: "As well as the continuation of your reform process, we also are very keen to see greater actions in terms of protecting Human Rights". However, Mark Farmaner the director of Human rights group Burma Campaign UK expressed concerns, saying: "The British government hails Thein Sein as a reformer but he has a lot of blood on his hands" The president was a soldier in Burma's army for 40 years and was also a member of the former military dictatorship's ruling council.
Before they went on to discuss financial help from the British government for Burma's economic development and humanitarian programme, Thein Sein stated that: "Burma will release all political prisoners by the end of the year and very possibly over the coming weeks we will have a nation wide ceasefire".
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office asserted that: "The president met a range of British business at events hosted by the UK ASEAN Business Council, and discussed the importance of transparency, building a stable regulatory framework and harnessing private investments for the good of the people."
Children on the Edge hope that in addition to this trip being successful from a business perspective, that Thein Sein’s statement regarding the release of political prisoners and the nationwide ceasefire will also come into fruition.