The Straits Times
Published on Nov 19, 2012

Myanmar relaxes stance on Red Cross, UN human rights office


YANGON - Myanmar's reformist government on the eve of a historic visit on Monday by United States President Barack Obama, has said it plans to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to resume prison visits in the country.

And it also intends to invite the United Nations's High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish an office in Myanmar.

In a statement posted on the website of President Thein Sein, who will on Monday meet with President Obama at the old parliament building in Yangon, the government said the measures - which include a more transparent process for the release of political prisoners, and renewed efforts to stop ethnic violence in the Rakhine state and war in the Kachin state in the north - were part of "continuing efforts to meet its international obligations, protect and promote human dignity, and strengthen democratic governance for its peoples".

"ICRC has recommenced operations in Myanmar since 2011, installing sewage systems, solar power and access to groundwater in many of the country's prisons," the statement said. "Additional access will be granted to assess the welfare and living conditions of the prisoners and to facilitate medical treatment."