David Cameron urges caution over Burma progress

 

There should be no delay in easing sanctions against Burma if its moves towards democracy continue, David Cameron said today.

But the Prime Minister said he wanted to see the situation for himself before backing any relaxation.

Mr Cameron is due to become the first Western leader to meet democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi since she was elected to parliament when he visits the country tomorrow.

Interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live, the premier said he would also meet President Thein Sein and "thank him for the work that he has done" on democratic reform.

Asked if sanctions should be eased, Mr Cameron said: "If Burma moves towards democracy then we should respond in kind, and we should not be slow in doing that.

"But first I want to go and see for myself on the ground how things are going."

Some of the business delegation that has been accompanying Mr Cameron around South East Asia are due to travel to Burma.

However, Downing Street has insisted the visit is purely political and the businessmen will merely be carrying out "cultural" activities.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak was asked at a joint press conference with Mr Cameron in Kuala Lumpur whether he thought sanctions should now be relaxed.

He said he had recently visited Burma and met President Thein.

"I really do believe first of all that he is sincere," Mr Najib said. "This has been supported by Aung San Suu Kyi's own personal remarks about him."

The premier said he was convinced the momentum to democracy was irreversible, and that view was shared by "many people" in Burma.

Sanctions should be eased quickly in order to shore up the president's popularity, he added.

"We need to support a man like President Thein Sein so he will be supported by the community, because there will be elements who want to take a much more conservative approach," he said.

Mr Cameron said developments in Burma may be "one potential chapter of light" in a "world where there are many dark chapters in history being written".

"Of course we should be sceptical. Of course we should be questioning. Of course we shouldn't be naive," he said.

But he added: "Aung San Suu Kyi herself, who has spent so many years in such a long, lonely but powerful struggle believes that he is acting in good faith."

Britain had played a "leading role" in the imposition of sanctions, and would also not be "backwards" in responding to positive changes, he added.

In a question and answer session with students at the Nottingham University campus in Malaysia later, Mr Cameron said: "I hope that following my meetings tomorrow I will have the confidence to go back to my country, to back to others in the European Union, and argue that the change in Burma is irreversible, that they are set on a path towards democracy, that in a world of difficulty and darkness and all sorts of problems, here is one bright light that we should encourage, and we should respond in a way that makes that regime feel that it is moving in the right direction and that the world is on its side."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory