Monday, 9 April 2012

British PM to visit Myanmar this week: officials

YANGON: British Prime Minister David Cameron is due to visit Myanmar this week on the first visit by a top Western leader since decades of military rule ended last year, government officials said Monday.

Cameron will meet President Thein Sein in the capital Naypyidaw on Friday and hold talks with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon the same day, a Myanmar government official who did not want to be named told AFP.

"His visit will be a day trip," he said.

A second official confirmed the plan but said the schedule was still being finalised. An aide to Suu Kyi told AFP that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate was expected to meet Cameron on Friday in Yangon.

Suu Kyi, who spent 15 of the past 22 years locked up by the former junta, won a seat in parliament for the first time in April 1 by-elections that were largely praised by the West as a step towards democracy.

Myanmar's quasi-civilian government has announced a surprising series of reforms over the past year, such as releasing hundreds of political prisoners and welcoming the opposition back into mainstream politics.

The European Union is considering further easing sanctions against Myanmar following the landmark elections, EU diplomats have said.

While some nations have argued for all sanctions to be removed, Britain -- Myanmar's former colonial ruler -- and Nordic nations are said to favour a "step-by-step" approach to ensure reforms continue.

Cameron would be the first Western head of government to visit since the junta handed power to a new nominally civilian regime last year following a controversial 2010 election won by the military's political proxies.

Suu Kyi was released just days after that vote. Her National League for Democracy (NLD) party swept to a landslide election victory in 1990, when Suu Kyi was in detention, but the junta never recognised the result.

Last November, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in November became the first US secretary of state to visit Myanmar in more than 50 years.

The United States announced last week it would ease selected sanctions, including restrictions on investment to Myanmar, but said measures would stay in place against those opposed to reform.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2012

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Speech of General Aung San