UK to suspend Burma sanctions

The Prime Minister has said that the UK will "suspend, but not lift" sanctions on Burma. He was speaking at a joint press conference with Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon.

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Facts about Burma

  • Burma was a British colony between 1886 and 1948
  • The military government changed the name from Burma to Myanmar in 1989. Many countries, including the UK, do not recognise the change.
  • Its 2010 election was widely seen as unfair but brought in a nominally civilian government under President Thein sein.
  • It is one of the poorest countries in Asia
  • Reporters Without Borders ranked Burma among the 10 worst countries for press freedom

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Cameron convoy sprayed with water

The Prime Minister's convoy was sprayed with water en route to the Burmese capital Naypyidaw to mark the Thingyan water festival. President Thien Sein greeted Mr Cameron at the palace and said through a translator:

This visit of your excellency is significant and historical in our bilateral relations. We are very encouraged and we are most appreciative of your kind acknowledgement towards Myanmar [Burma].

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PM arrives in Burma during national water fight

Locals celebrate Thingyan in Naypyitaw, Burma yesterday Credit: REUTERS/Soe Zeya

David Cameron's historic visit to Burma coincides with the country's water festival, described by the British Ambassador to Burma Andy Heyn as a week of "collective madness where people across the country come together to soak each other with water at every possible opportunity".

Children throw water at passing traffic in central Yangon Credit: REUTERS/Soe Zeya

Cameron 'under no illusions' about Burma's reforms

Following his arrival in Burma, David Cameron warned that reforms in the country could be rolled back:

We should be under no illusions about what a long way there is to go and how much more the [Burmese] government has to do to show this reform is real and it is irreversible. We should be very cautious and very sceptical about that. We need to see progress on political reform. We need to see prisoners freed and changes that show the reform is irreversible.

Cameron urged to relax sanctions on Burma

Malaysian prime minister Najib Tun Razak urged David Cameron to ease sanctions on Burma, saying he believes the democratic reforms in the country are genuine.

Speaking of Burma's President Thein Sein, he said:

I really do believe first of all that he is sincere.This has been supported by Aung San Suu Kyi's own personal remarks about him...We need to support a man like President Thein Sein so he will be supported by the community, because there will be elements who want to take a much more conservative approach.

Mr Cameron is expected to signal the easing of sanctions against the country as he delivers a message of support to Aung San Suu Kyi later today.

Cameron arrives in Burma

David Cameron has arrived in Burma in what is believed to be the first visit to the former colony by a British prime minister. On the tarmac, he said:

This country really matters. For decades it has suffered under a brutal dictatorship. It is also desperately poor. It doesn't have to be this way. There is a government now that says it is committed to reform, that has started to take steps, and I think it is right to encourage those steps.

Mr Cameron also said he wanted to meet the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, describing her as "a shining example for people who yearn for freedom, for democracy, for progress".

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