Letter: Britain should take a lead on Burma

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COVERAGE OF the grim and tragic situation in Burma is welcome ("In Fear of Shadows", 22 November).

I visited that country some time ago and met Aung San Suu Kyi. I can confirm that a very threatening situation exists in Burma and in my experience it is nothing more than a deeply entrenched slave economy. Basic rights are being denied to the people - political, civil, social and economic rights. Aung San Suu Kyi continually pleads for strong action from the international community.

The EU continues to prevaricate but it needs to be acknowledged that the British government has continued to maintain a strong position in the face of resistance from other member states (especially France).

Foreign Office minister Derek Fatchett has followed a consistent and strong line and has recently secured a stronger position in the EU Council of Ministers, particularly on restrictions.

It is therefore unlikely that he would permit any weakening of this position by our own government. The ambassador to the UK from the Burma military junta mentioned in the piece is actually only the Foreign Minister designate and as such, cannot be refused the right to travel to Britain.

Of one thing I am certain, when he does return to his country he will not be the recipient of the usual fond farewells extended to foreign ambassadors.

Finally, we now need to campaign and lobby on one crucial point and that is to ensure that the strongest possible sanctions are put in place. If an EU position cannot be reached, our own government should look at taking unilateral action. Then, and only then, will we be properly responding to the express wishes of Aung San Suu Kyi.