Burma Campaign UK today welcomed British Foreign Secretary William Hague’s upbeat but pragmatic message on political progress in Burma during his visit to the country. It is the first visit to Burma by a British Foreign Secretary in 55 years.
The Foreign Secretary made clear that the UK and European Union were willing to respond positively to real reform in Burma, but that there was still much more that needed to be done before sanctions could be lifted, including the release of all political prisoners.
“William Hague struck the right note in saying that there is opportunity for change, and that the UK and EU will respond positively if there is real reform, but that there is much more that still needs to be done,” said Anna Roberts, Executive Director of Burma Campaign UK. “The message that the military-backed government should be judged by its actions, not its words, is spot on. So far they haven’t delivered on their promises, and most political prisoners remain in jail.”
During his two day visit the Foreign Secretary’s meetings included officials from the military-backed government, Aung San Suu Kyi, and representatives of ethnic political parties which are not banned by the government.
The British government has been one of the strongest in supporting international pressure to promote reform in Burma.
“The British government deserves credit for remaining more level-headed and realistic about recent changes in Burma than some other European governments,” said Anna Roberts. “While some welcome changes have taken place, human rights abuses have actually increased in the past year, including the use of gang-rape by the Burmese Army. The UK must be prepared to block the premature relaxation of economic sanctions by the EU. To remove sanctions now just as they are starting to have a positive impact would be madness.”