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Lobby group Burma Campaign UK (BCUK) has accused former British Prime Minister Tony Blair of playing a secretive “advisory role” to Burmese President Thein Sein, alleging that Blair has made multiple trips to the former pariah state to meet him.
BCUK released a statement on Thursday criticising the former leader’s lack of public disclosure regarding the meetings.
“Given that Tony Blair has ignored 11 requests over the past year asking what he is doing in Burma, we can only assume that it is controversial and he wants to keep it a secret,” said Zoya Phan, BCUK campaigns manager.
BCUK said it has been writing to Blair since May 2013, and has also appealed for information from the British Foreign Office.
“The British Foreign Office, which helped to arrange at least one of his visits to Burma, has turned down a freedom of information request asking for the details and purpose of his visit,” the BCUK statement reads.
Blair’s office has so far offered one reply, the London-based group said, however the letter failed to address any of the specific questions, and “was so general as to be meaningless”.
“Giving strategic, political and public relations advice to the military-backed government while its soldiers are still attacking and killing civilians and raping ethnic women, would be deplorable, said Zoya Phan. “Tony Blair used to preach the need for transparency, now he should practice it and come clean about what he is doing in Burma.”
BCUK have repeatedly criticised British engagement with the Burmese government, especially in regards to fresh military links. In January, British army officers provided classroom training to Burmese counterparts.
Defending the training in a January interview with DVB, British Ambassador to Burma Andrew Patrick said that the training was “about human rights; it is about accountability, about legal framework, about things like child soldiers.”
However, BCUK director Mark Farmaner scoffed at the suggestion, and likened training the Burmese military to “training sharks not to eat fish.”
On Wednesday, BCUK also announced it was launching a campaign calling on British Foreign Secretary William Hague to personally intervene to secure the release of jailed DVB journalist, Zaw Pe who was recently sentenced to one year in prison.