President of Burma (Myanmar) U Thein Sein, at the invitation of President of South Korea Mr Lee Myung-bak, left Nay-pyi-taw for the Republic of Korea on Sunday (7 October) to pay a goodwill visit.

The President’s delegation members are Union Ministers Wunna Maung Lwin, Soe Thein, Tin Naing Thein, Khin Maung Soe, Aye Myint, Region Chief Ministers Myint Swe, Ye Myint and Nyan Win, Deputy Ministers Han Sein and Dr Daw Thein Thein Htay and departmental heads, the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper said Monday.

Thein Sein and delegation reached Seoul in South Korea on Monday for a three-day state visit that will focus on economic ties and include a tour of military-related companies, AFP news said.

Meanwhile, President Thein Sein has been tipped as a possible candidate for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, raising the profile of Burma after Daw Aung San Suu Kyi received the prestigious award in 1991, as said by Thomas Kean with AFP via The Myanmar Times.

A total of 231 nominees are in the running and, although the prize committee never discloses the nominees’ names, Bill Clinton, Helmut Kohl, the EU and WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning are known to be on the list. The prize will be announced at 4:30pm Burma time on October 12.

Several people may be amazed to take notice of tipping Thein Sein as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. Why? Active people do not forget the past. They do not fail to remember the Thein Sein who was the Prime Minister of the previous military junta that cracked down on the Saffron Revolution in September 2007, which was launched by Buddhist monks.

In addition, Thein Sein was the same Prime Minister responsible for refusing international humanitarian aid during an emergency period when Burma was ravaged by the Nargis storm in May 2008. According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), the storm left 140,000 people dead and severely affected 2.4 million.

Right now, brutal warfare launched by the military-backed Thein Sein government goes on in ethnic areas, especially in Kachin State. The Burma Army continues merciless fighting on the ethnic Kachin people. It is the practice of government armed forces using landmines, bombarding artillery shells, attacking ordinary civilians, using rape as a war weapon, taking hostages for forced labor, destructing citizens’ properties, sustenance and agricultural farms and burning ethnic villages.

However, President Thein Sein, in an interview with the BBC’s Hardtalk Televised program that aired on 29 September, dismissed the human rights groups’ reports that Burmese soldiers have committed human rights abuses against local civilians in Kachin state.

Stephen Sackur interviewed President Thein Sein on September 29 2012 in New York

Presenter of BBC's HardTalk, Stephen Sackur interviewed President Thein Sein on September 29 2012 in New York. (Photo: http://www.president-office.gov.mm)

Asked to comment on a report released earlier this year by the New York based Human Rights Watch alleging that government forces have routinely committed acts of rape and torture during the army’s 16-month-long Kachin offensive, Thein Sein responded that the charges are just one-sided accusations.

He answered that Burmese armed forces are well-disciplined and it is baseless to say the Burma Army has committed rape and homicide, Thein Sein told Stephen Sackur, host of BBC Hardtalk. The interview was done in New York while Thein Sein was attending the United Nations General Assembly.

In fact, the government armed forces repeatedly breach principles of the Geneva Conventions, which were drawn up in 1949. According to the Conventions, civilians must be protected by warring parties under any circumstances. Civilians must not be discriminated against because of race, religion or political opinion. The Geneva Conventions also prohibits them from being forced to give information. Civilians must not be used to shield military operations or make an area immune from military operations. Civilians must not be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Women must not be indecently assaulted, raped, or forced into prostitution.

But the Thein Sein government of Burma and its troops turn a deaf ear to what the Geneva Convention says. As a result, the Burma Army’s full-scale offensives are becoming greater than ever in Kachin State. The fighting seems revengeful as Burmese soldiers commit various crimes – such as looting, killing, raping and burning down the civilians’ villages – on the front line.  Actually, ordinary Kachin people are just innocent citizens of Burma and soldiers should spare their lives and properties.

Thein Sein should try to know what really happened in frontline areas where Burmese soldiers are committing crimes freely as there are no proper penalties set by senior authorities. He must be sincere to uncover the truth.

If he has not courage enough to accept the truth, he may not deserve any honor. The President should not hide the human rights violations of his army from public scrutiny.