Thursday, August 30, 2012

Visa ban waved on Thein Sein to visit US

Thursday, 30 August 2012 13:34 Mizzima News

The US has waved a visa ban on Burma’s President Thein Sein, who is scheduled to address the UN General Assembly in New York in September, and other officials.

Burmese President Thein Sein Photo: president's office

Thein Sein’s trip comes during the same month as a planned US visit by Aung San Suu Kyi, who will meet with administration officials and others in Washington prior to visiting New York City.

A White House spokeswoman said it is not a blanket lifting of the visa ban, and the U.S. still will screen Burmese officials for evidence of complicity in gross human rights abuses.

Obama made the decision “to signal our interest in engaging more closely with him and his government as they continue to undertake reforms,” White House national security spokesman Tommy Vietor said, according to wire reports.

“Burma's progress in undertaking political and economic reform has been facilitated, to a large degree, by our increasing engagement with key reformers in the government,” Vietor said.

Vietor said that the decision would allow Thein Sein, who took office last year, and reformist ministers to meet with US officials and to gain “a better understanding of democracy and US policy” during the visit.

Under 2008 legislation, the ban covers officials of the former ruling junta, the military and those who lend it financial support. Immediate family members of such individuals also are banned.

Meanwhile, the US Campaign for Burma, a Washington-based activist group, said on Wednesday that Burma authorities have yet to grant passports to 15 veteran student activist leaders and many former political prisoners.

“Their application for passports is delayed while many government officials, ruling party members and cronies are freely traveling all over the world, including the U.S. and Europe,” said the group's executive director, Aung Din.

Hayden said that by engaging Thein Sein and select Burmese ministers and deputy ministers, “We can build trust, create opportunities to press for further reform, and give key reformers a better understanding of democracy and U.S. policy.”

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