British PM ‘to support, not just befriend’ opposition

Britain’s new prime minister, David Cameron, has said that he will do more than the previous Labour government to help Burma’s beleaguered opposition.

The message was passed on to the National League for Democracy (NLD) party yesterday by British ambassador Andrew Heyn, on the same day that 1,600 letters were delivered to Downing Street by campaigners calling on Cameron “to take the lead in pushing for strong and effective international action on Burma”.

Tin Oo, deputy leader of the NLD, said that he and two other senior members, Win Tin and Nyan Win, met with Heyn yesterday in Rangoon.

“The UK…prime minister passed on a personal message, that the UK government fully agrees with the democratic forces continuing their activity and supports all their work,” he said. “[Heyn] said…that [the new UK government] will be more supportive and striving than just the friendly work done by the previous Labour government.”

Britain’s criticism of the Burmese junta has been fairly sporadic, although former prime minister Gordon Brown used his last days in office to pen a letter to Aung San Suu Kyi in which he said “I will do everything I can to support you. You are, for me, what courage is and I will fight for you to be free and your people [to be] free”.

Like the US, Britain holds sanctions on Burma, but rights groups say that Burma remains a ’boutique issue’ for the West as it concentrates priorities elsewhere.

The London-based Burma Campaign UK (BCUK) yesterday delivered 1,657 letters to Downing Street in lieu of the 22nd anniversary of the 1988 uprising this Sunday.

The letters call on Cameron to push for a global arms embargo and UN investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma, as well as increasing aid and persuading the junta to “enter into genuine dialogue with Burma’s democracy movement and ethnic groups”.

“David Cameron has already shown that he sees Burma as a priority,” said Mary Hla, campaigns officer at BCUK, in a statement released yesterday.

“We hope he will take the lead in building support for practical steps. When he goes to the UN General Assembly in September he has the opportunity to push for them to establish a Commission of Inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma.”

Fellow BCUK campaigner Seng Pan added that “The British government is one of the few not to fall for the regime’s election lies”.

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