Cameron to Check Myanmar Reform Credentials During Visit

13 Apr 2012

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British Prime Minister David Cameron deliver his speech as he visit the Al-Azhar University in Jakarta


Prime Minister David Cameron will push for more reforms during a landmark visit to Myanmar on Friday, the first by a major Western leader in 50 years as countries jockey for business and influence in the long-isolated state.

Cameron will meet opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who in 2010 emerged from 15 years of house arrest to go on to score a stunning April 1 by-election victory, and President Thein Sein, whose reforms in military-dominated Myanmar have startled those who for decades viewed the country as a pariah state, reports Reuters.

"Where reform is beginning, like in Burma, we must get behind it ... so let's pay tribute to the inspirational Aung San Suu Kyi. Let's pay tribute also to the leadership of President Thein Sein," Cameron said in a speech in Indonesia on Thursday.

"Let's show them when they have the courage to reform, we have the courage to respond," said Cameron, who is on a tour of Asia to boost British trade and investment.

Also known as Burma, former British colony Myanmar has for years been the target of Western sanctions over human rights abuses. After winning independence in 1948 - largely due to the efforts of Suu Kyi's late father - a 1962 coup ushered in 49 years of unbroken military rule.

That ended a year ago after the transfer to a quasi-civilian government stacked with former generals, a hegemony now at risk after Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) took 43 of 45 seats in the recent by-elections.

The smooth polls, which were a stark contrast to a 2010 general election widely seen as rigged to favour an army-backed party, came amid a wave of astonishing reforms, including the freeing of hundreds of political prisoners, peace talks with ethnic minority rebels and the easing of media censorship.

Those developments have triggered calls for the lifting of sanctions on Myanmar, and on Thursday Cameron indicated he would push for trade bans to be eased if he felt convinced by its transition to a fledgling democracy during his visit on Friday.

"I hope following my meetings tomorrow I will have the confidence to go back to my country, to go back to others in the European Union, and argue that the change in Burma is irreversible ... and here is one bright light that we should encourage," he told reporters in Kuala Lumpur later on Thursday.

"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."

Tags: News, World, Cameron, Myanmar, Credentials

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