British premier Cameron makes historic Myanmar visit | News | DW | 13.04.2012
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British premier Cameron makes historic Myanmar visit

British Prime Minister David Cameron has met opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the president of Myanmar in the first visit to the country by a Western leader since the reformist government there took power.

The British premier met reformist President Thein Sein in the country's showpiece capital, Naypyitaw ahead of a landmark meeting with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Welcoming David Cameron to his official residence, former General Thein Sein hailed the summit as "historic." Cameron is the first Western leader to visit the country since reforms began with the end of direct military rule in 2010, although there has been a string of visits by foreign digitaries, including US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

"We are very pleased and encouraged by your acknowledgement of Myanmar's efforts to promote democracy and human rights," Thein Sein told Cameron.

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An historic visit

The former army general, has instigated a raft of reforms since he came to power in March last year. These include the release of political prisoners, a relaxation of restrictions on the press and allowing Suu Kyi to take part in elections.

Shortly after arriving in the city, Cameron had said he wished to encourage the government in its progress towards reform.

"There is a government now that says it is committed to reform, that has started to take steps, and I think it is right to encourage those steps," Cameron told the BBC, as he arrived.

A meeting with Suu Kyi

Following his meeting with the president, Cameron flew on to Yangon, 350 kilometers (220 miles) south of the capital, for a meeting with Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy (NLD) party won 43 of 45 contested seats in by-elections earlier this month.

The pair called for a suspension of foreign sanctions against Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

"I think there are prospects for change in Burma and I think it is right for the rest of the world to respond to those changes," Cameron said.

Suu Kyi agreed. "I support the idea of the suspension of sanctions rather than the lifting of sanctions," she said.

Despite achieving a similar landslide in 1990 to the latest round of voting, Suu Kyi's party was blocked from power by the military regime. Suu Kyi was kept under house arrest for 15 years at intervals between 1989 and 2010.

Thein Sein is believed to be keen to have Western sanctions against the country, imposed in 1988, eased. The European Union is expected to decide upon whether to renew or abandon sanctions on April 23.

rc/pfd (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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