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Wednesday, Aug 20th

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Thai editorial takes Thein Sein to task

Burmese President Thein Sein will begin a three-day visit to Thailand on Sunday, following two postponed trips in June. The trip was greeted on Friday by an editorial in The Bangkok Post strongly challenging Thein Sein’s recent comments about the Rohingya population in western Burma.

Burmese President Thein Sein speaks during the US-Asean business forum and dinner in Siem Reap in July.  Photo: President's OfficeThein Sein's trip to Thailand was originally scheduled for June 4 when he was also scheduled to address the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Bangkok. However, after an enthusiastic welcome for opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who also spoke at the conference, the trip was cancelled, leading to speculation that Thein Sein did not want to walk in Suu Kyi’s shadow while in Thailand.

The Burmese government said duties at home caused the cancellation. Later, a second trip was also cancelled.

Thein Sein will hold talks with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the two leaders will witness the signing of a memorandum of understanding on cooperation for development in Burma covering human resource development and preparations for Burma to take the chairmanship of Asean in 2014, Thai officials said earlier.

The Bangkok Post editorial on Friday strongly challenged Thein Sein’s recent comments to a UN official suggesting the UN accept hundreds of thousands of Rohingya in Burma, following the outbreak of sectarian unrest in western Burma in June, claiming dozens of lives and causing widespread loss of property.

The editorial said: “…the country and its leader still have a long way to travel to catch up on its 48 years as a cruel, violent military dictatorship. The recent ethnic clashes in western Myanmar have thrown off the facade of a united country.
 
"President Thein Sein uttered some of the most distressing statements heard from a reform government in recent memory," said the editorial.

“He told the United Nations last week that the million Rohingya people in Rakhine (formerly known as Arakhan) state are simply not welcome in Myanmar. They would be placed in camps or, preferably, deported. They are ethnically different from the Burman majority, and they are religiously Muslim, he said. The only solution is to hand them over to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or resettle them in third countries that are willing to take them.”

The newspaper called for the Thai government not to let Thein Sein’s views go unchallenged.

“The existence and problem of Rohingya should be raised during Thein Sein's visit. Thailand and other neighbours are all too aware of the plight of these people,” it said. “The shocking language of the Myanmar president may be excused briefly after his country's long isolation from the real world, enforced at the army's gunpoint.”

The editorial said any action by Thein Sein to back up his words is unacceptable.

“Myanmar is emerging from a long, dark history of violence. It is entering a new world, with norms that are quite different from 50 years ago. Thein Sein's statements about the Rohingya appear racist, malicious and threatening. They must not stand unchallenged.”