Britain’s Burma-Bound PM Hints at Sanction Relief

Posted April 12th, 2012 at 4:30 pm (UTC-5)
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British Prime Minister David Cameron says his country could soon ease sanctions on Burma, as he prepares to make a trip to the once-isolated country.

Mr. Cameron told the BBC on Thursday that Britain will be quick to “respond in kind” if Burma continues making democratic progress. But he said he wants to witness the changes firsthand before making any decisions.

During a visit that starts Friday, Mr. Cameron is due to meet with President Thein Sein in the capital, Naypyitaw, and with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon. Her political party claimed a landslide victory in parliamentary by-elections this month.

Burmese presidential adviser Koko Hlaing told VOA Thursday that the government did not expect the extent of election victory by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.

He said her political role has not yet been decided but that she will have options. He also said that as a parliament member, the opposition leader will have a great opportunity to advise the government and present her ideas.

Koko Hlaing is a member of a Burmese delegation visiting Washington this week.

In an interview with VOA Thursday, he also said he expects that the U.S. move to lift investment sanctions gradually will be beneficial.

The United States announced last week it is easing some sanctions on Burma, including restrictions on travel and investment. Other Western nations are also re-examining their policies following April 1 by-elections in which Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy captured 43 of 45 available seats.

She and her allies will take their seats at the opening of the new parliament on April 23, as the main opposition party in an assembly dominated by military-backed political parties.

European Union foreign ministers are set to discuss the bloc's policy towards Burma on the same day.

The National League for Democracy boycotted the 2010 elections that ended decades of military rule in Burma. Since taking office a year ago, President Thein Sein has enacted a series of democratic reforms, including greater press freedom and the release of many political prisoners.