U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said there will be opportunities for Britain to work with Myanmar’s opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and make the country’s transition to democracy “irreversible.”
Cameron will this week become the first Western leader to visit Myanmar since Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy rejoined the political system and won 43 of 45 seats in April 1 special elections. The visit will focus on political issues and Cameron won’t discuss boosting trade, according to an official in the premier’s office.
“Burma is a bright spark, where you see an inspirational leader who has been so patient and hard-working, and wanting to see democracy flower in that country, we see that flowering taking place,” Cameron said in television interviews in Jakarta yesterday, using the country’s former name. “Britain has helped put huge pressure and sanctions on that regime and I think there will be opportunities now to work with Aung San Suu Kyi and make that process irreversible.”
President Thein Sein’s army-backed party won a 2010 election in Myanmar that the NLD boycotted. Along with the military, it still controls more than 80 percent of parliamentary seats.
Cameron will travel to Myanmar after leading a trade and diplomatic mission to Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore with representatives from more than 30 British companies. Most will leave the delegation in Malaysia or Singapore and fewer than a dozen who will go to Yangon, Myanmar’s main city, as tourists, said the official, who declined to be identified in line with government policy.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said April 4 that the U.S. will selectively lift restrictions on Myanmar. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations called on the U.S. and Europe last week to end sanctions, a step that might allow Myanmar’s economy to further open and give investors access to its mineral wealth and market of 64 million people.
The British government “discourages trade and investment” in Myanmar and offers no commercial services to companies looking to trade or invest there, according to the U.K. Trade and Investment website. Investment in the country is “negligible,” according to UKTI.
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