UK Prime Minister Cameron Calls For Suspension Of Sanctions Against Myanmar

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By Staff Reporter | April 13, 2012 11:47 PM EST

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said that the European Union should suspend its sanctions on Myanmar as that country's civilian government moves toward democratic reforms.

On Frdiay, in a historic visit, Cameron met with President Thein Sein, who leads Myanmar's first civilian government in 50 years, and, in a separate event, met with political activist and newly elected MP Aung San Suu Kyi at her home in Yangon. While he praised Myanmar, or Burma as it is more commonly known, for its efforts towards democracy, he said sanctions should be suspended, but not lifted completely.

"[Burma] shouldn't be as poor as it is. It shouldn't have suffered under dictatorship for as long as it has, and things don't have to be that way," the prime minister said.

"I do think it is important to send a signal that we want to help see the changes that can bring the growth of freedom of human rights and democracy in your country."

Like his Foreign Secretary William Hague, who visited Suu Kyi earlier this year, Cameron said that Myanmar still needs to make progress on the human rights front, adding that sanctions can only be lifted if President Sein's reforms are genuine.

"Of course we must respond with care, we must always be skeptical and questioning because we want to know those changes are irreversible, but as we have discussed, I think it is right to suspend the sanctions that there are against Burma – to suspend them, not to lift them – and obviously not to include the arms embargo," Cameron said.

Cameron is the first British Prime Minister ever to visit Burma.

Suu Kyi agreed with Cameron's stance, saying that her country still "has a long way to go" and could be kept on track by international pressure.

"I support the lifting, rather than the suspension, of sanctions because this would be an acknowledgement of the role of the president and other reformers," the Nobel laureate said on Friday.

"It would also make it quite clear to those who are against reform that should they try to obstruct the way of the reformers, then sanctions could come back."

The European Union will meet to revalue its Myanmar sanctions next week.

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