Myanmar premier to attend Olympic Games opening in Beijing

Society Materials 4 August 2008 11:50 (UTC +04:00)

The prime minister of Myanmar will attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, state media reports said Monday.

Prime Minister General Thein Sein was due to leave Myanmar within the next days to attend the Games' opening ceremony in Beijing on Friday, said The New Light of Myanmar, a government mouthpiece, reported dpa.

Friday also marks the 20th anniversary of Myanmar's August 8, 1988 bloodbath, in which the military crushed a pro-democracy movement, leaving an estimated 3,000 people dead.

China is one of Myanmar's few allies in the international community.

The ruling junta is deemed a pariah among western democracies for its bad human rights record and refusal to free opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, where she has languished for the past five years.

Although Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) Party won the 1990 general election by a landslide, the victory has been ignored by the military and hundreds of the NLD members imprisoned.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate, has spent nearly 13 of the past 18 years under house arrest, with her latest incarceration beginning in May, 2003.

The junta's most recent acts to earn near universal condemnation have included a crackdown on protests led by Buddhist monks last September that left more than 30 people dead, and the hampering of emergency relief and aid workers to the country in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, which hit on May 2-3 and left about 140,000 people dead or missing.

Prime Minister Thein Sein is a member of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), as the ruling junta calls itself.

Myanmar has been under junta rule since 1988. Prior to that it was under the dictatorship of General Ne Win, who came to power with a military coup in 1962, and launched the country along the disastrous Burmese Way to Socialism.