Myanmar leader in Oslo to boost Western ties
AFPOSLO/YANGON--Myanmar President Thein Sein arrived in Oslo on Tuesday, kicking off his first trip to Europe aimed at forging stronger ties between the former pariah state and the West.
February 27, 2013, 12:08 am TWN
The reformist leader landed at Oslo's international airport, Norwegian officials said, for a three-day stay in the Scandinavian country to be followed by visits to Finland, Austria, Belgium and Italy before he returns to Myanmar on March 8.
The former junta general has impressed the international community with a string of reforms since coming to power in early 2011, including welcoming long-detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi into parliament and freeing hundreds of political prisoners.
“This kind of visit is important in the context of political change in the country because President Thein Sein and the reformers in this current government need encouragement and support from the international community so that the hardliners who oppose transformation can be isolated,” said Khin Maung Win, deputy editor-in-chief of the independent broadcaster Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB).
“What he has introduced in the country since he came to power two years ago is enormous ... These are things that Burmese people, including myself, would never dream of two years ago,” Khin Maung Win said.
While in Oslo, Thein Sein was due to discuss issues pertaining to future democratic reforms, development aid, the environment and economic cooperation, though no major agreements were expected to be signed, Norwegian foreign ministry spokesman Kjetil Elsebutangen said.
In Yangon, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was awarded the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in oppposing apartheid in South Africa, said Tuesday he hoped to see a “truly free” Myanmar as he met Suu Kyi during a visit to the former junta-ruled nation.
“It is wonderful to be here and to see her. We are looking forward to seeing your country truly free,” he told reporters gathered at the residence.
“The potential of this country is immense and we want to see the potential fully realised,” he said, urging an end to ethnic conflict in the country.
Tutu, who said he was not planning to meet any government officials during his trip, expressed hopes that Myanmar would become “truly democratic.”