The British Foreign Office has finally released details of the costs incurred for Burma’s President Thein Sein visiting the UK in July 2013.
The invitation to President Thein Sein was controversial, given the limited nature of Burma’s reforms and the scale of human rights abuses still taking place. The British government did not secure any new commitments for reforms or improving human rights during his visit. Thein Sein was followed by protestors with Wanted posters everywhere he went.
The costs to the British taxpayer of hosting Thein Sein and his delegation was £26,724.65. This included almost £20,000 for hotels, and £2,500 for hiring a boat for a cruise on the River Thames.
The Foreign Office missed the deadline for releasing the information, citing the reason for the delay as time needed to decide whether it was in the public interest to release the information.
The bills also include one for £412 spent on a room service dinner at the luxury Dorchester Hotel. It would take the average person in Burma three years to earn enough to pay for that dinner.
“British taxpayers don’t want their money spent on luxury hotels and dinners for the likes of Thein Sein,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK. “If international law was applied to Burma, then Thein Sein could be standing trial at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. It’s very embarrassing to give red carpet treatment to a man like this.”
Burma Campaign UK made the request for the information in order to learn what the costs of the controversial visit was to UK taxpayers, and also to demonstrate to people in Burma that governments should be open and transparent about how they spend money. News about the release of this information was on the front page of the Mizzima Daily newspaper in Burma.