British Prime Minister Cameron to visit Myanmar

Story highlights

  • The British prime minister plans to meet with Myanmar's president on Friday
  • Cameron is also expected to meet with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi
  • He is the first high profile Western leader to visit Myanmar in decades
  • Myanmar recently held by-elections in which Suu Kyi's party won nearly all the seats

Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain is planning to visit Myanmar on Friday, after the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party won dozens of seats at elections in the Southeast Asian country, a Myanmar government official said Tuesday.

Cameron plans to meet with the president of Myanmar, Thein Sein, during a brief stop in Naypyidaw, the country's capital, said U Soe Win, Myanmar's deputy minister of information. He described the planned visit as "informal."

The British prime minister will then travel to Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, where he will hold meetings with British Embassy officials and Suu Kyi.

Cameron will be the first high profile Western leader in decades to visit Myanmar, a former British colony also known as Burma.

The country's authoritarian military rulers have begun loosening their grip on power. In the past 12 months, the government has pardoned hundreds of political prisoners, secured a ceasefire with Karen rebels and agreed to negotiate with other ethnic rebel groups.

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the by-elections that took place April 1 as "an important step in Burma's democratic transformation." Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, or NLD, won 43 of the 44 seats it contested.

The Obama administration is now taking several significant steps to normalize relations with the country, including facilitating travel to the United States for select government officials and members of parliament.

    Clinton visited Myanmar in December -- a historic trip marking the first time a secretary of state had been to the country in more than 50 years -- and British Foreign Secretary William Hague visited the following month.

    While control of parliament will not change despite the opposition's strong performance in the by-elections, the result nonetheless gives the NLD and Suu Kyi a notable presence in the country's parliament.

    Suu Kyi, who was elected in the constituency of Kawhmu, has been invited attend her first session of parliament in Naypyidaw on April 23, said U Tin Kyaw, a senior NLD official.

    Myanmar's legislature has 664 seats, more than 80% of which are still held by lawmakers aligned with the military-backed ruling party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

    Suu Kyi, 66, led her party to a landslide victory the previous time Myanmar held multiparty elections, in 1990. But the junta ignored the results and placed her under house arrest.

    Released in November 2010, Suu Kyi was allowed to crisscross the country to rally support for the NLD at the elections.