Cameron calls for sanctions on Burma to be eased

  • @bobjwilliams

The Prime Minister David Cameron today called for sanctions against Burma to be eased as he made a historic visit to the country.

Mr Cameron is visiting Burma on the first part of his tour of South East Asia promoting United Kingdom interests abroad.

This morning Mr Cameron met with President Thein Sein and stressed that the Burmese government had to make their moves towards democracy 'irreversible'.

Later, Mr Cameron met with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon.

He met the Nobel Peace Prize laureate in the garden of the villa where she spent 15 years under house arrest.

Speaking afterwards Mr Cameron said, "I think it is right to suspend sanctions that there are against Burma," he said.

"To suspend them, not to lift them."

Mr Cameron continued, "(Burma) shouldn't be as poor as it is, it shouldn't have suffered under dictatorship for as long as it has and things don't have to be that way.

"There is the real prospect of change and I'm very much committed to working with you in trying to help make sure that your country makes those changes.

"I met with President Thien Sein today and there are prospects for change in Burma and I think it is right for the rest of the world to respond to those changes.

"Of course we must respond with care, we must always be sceptical and questioning because we want to know those changes are irreversible, but as we have discussed, I think it is right to suspend the sanctions that there are against Burma - to suspend them, not to lift them - and obviously not to include the arms embargo.

"I do think it is important to send a signal that we want to help see the changes that can bring the growth of freedom of human rights and democracy in your country."

Aung San Suu Kyi said: “We still have a long way to go but we believe we can get there.

"I believe President Thien Sein is genuine about democratic reforms and I am very happy that Prime Minister Cameron thinks that the suspension of sanctions is the right way to respond to this.

"I support the lifting, rather than the suspension, of sanctions because this would be an acknowledgement of the role of the president and other reformers.

"This suspension will have taken place because of the steps taken by the president and other reformers.

"It would also make it quite clear to those who are against reform that should they try to obstruct the way of the reformers, then sanctions could come back."

The first Burmese general election in 20 years was held in 2010, it was followed by the establishment of a civilian government in 2011 - which was followed by a host of reforms, including the release of political prisoners.

Mr Cameron's visit to the country follows a trip by the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in December of last year.

The British Prime Minister also told reporters that he had asked Miss Suu Kyi to visit Britain.

She responded by saying, “Two years ago, I would have said thank you for the invitation but sorry.

"Now I am able to say perhaps. That is great progress."