The Straits Times
Published on Mar 05, 2013

Myanmar's Thein Sein offered fresh EU help on historic trip


BRUSSELS (AFP) - Thein Sein, on the first-ever visit to Brussels by a Myanmar president, received on Tuesday new pledges of EU economic assistance coupled with calls to protect his country's ethnic minorities.

The Myanmar leader, setting out on the fourth leg of a historic 10-day tour of Europe, met successively with European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso, EU president Herman Van Rompuy and foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

"You have in the European Union a committed and long-term partner for the historic journey that Myanmar and its people have started," Van Rompuy told Thein Sein, who was warmly welcomed all round for his ground-breaking reforms in the once pariah state.

Since the former premier took over the presidency in March 2011, hundreds of political prisoners have been released and elections held, including the election to parliament of long-detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.