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Burma President Questioned on Rights Issues at VOA Town Hall Event

Burmese President Thein Sein (left) at live VOA town hall event on May 19 in Washington with Burmese Service Chief Lwin Htun Than.
Burmese President Thein Sein defended his government’s record on human rights issues before a live studio audience at Voice of America Sunday, the first day of his visit to the United States.

President Thein Sein, who is scheduled to meet with President Obama at the White House Monday, was questioned for nearly an hour by the chief of the VOA Burmese Service and a live studio audience that included representatives of U.S.-based Burmese groups.

Asked about allegations of government discrimination and ethnic violence directed at the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine State, the president said, “The Rakhine State is an unusual case. It began as criminal activity: groups of people attacking one another, burning each other’s homes and committing violence. Then, the situation expanded. We formed a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the case.”

President Thein Sein acknowledged some "heavy-handed" actions by police in their efforts to control political dissent in the country, and said both protesters and police must understand their responsibilities as democracy takes hold.

As the Burmese president appeared on the live televised forum, a small group of protesters gathered outside the VOA headquarters to demand greater rights for the Rohingya Muslim minority.

Thein Sein is the first Burmese leader to visit Washington in 47 years. His visit comes six months after President Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the Southeast Asia nation.

Voice of America’s Burmese Service, and its sister station Radio Free Asia, are leading sources of international news in Burma. Voice of America Burmese TV programs are carried on Myanmar’s Skynet direct-to-home satellite, and VOA recently signed an agreement with Burmese State Television to carry VOA English language learning programs.

For more information about this release contact Kyle King at the VOA Public Relations office in Washington at (202) 203-4959, or write For more information about VOA visit our Public Relations website at, or the main VOA news site at

(This release published originally on