Myanmar reform progress troubles London

July 31, 2013 at 9:52 AM
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LONDON, July 31 (UPI) -- A British delegate said Wednesday before leaving for Myanmar he was "very concerned" about the status of reforms under way in the country.

Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow leads a delegation of British lawmakers this week to Myanmar, known also as Burma. He said he's expected to meet pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, policy makers and members of civil society during his visit.

Myanmar President Thein Sein, a former military commander, was feted in London by British Prime Minister David Cameron mid-July. Cameron congratulated the leader for democratic reforms embraced since 2010 general elections, though he expressed concern about violence targeting the minority Muslim community in the coastal state of Rakhine.

"Although I welcome the recent change of atmosphere in Burma, I remain very concerned about the ethnic violence and the pace of constitutional and democratic reform and said so directly to the president when I met him on July 16," the speaker said Wednesday.

Myanmar earned international praise for political changes that began with general elections in 2010 but human rights issues and religious conflict have overshadowed some of the reforms.

Myanmar's president freed 73 political prisoners last week. More than 600 were released last year as part of a political reform effort.

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