Britain stands shoulder to shoulder with Aung San Suu Kyi, says International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell on historic visit to Burma.
Andrew Mitchell is the first British Minister in a generation to make a full official visit to Burma, where he has met the president and other senior leaders from Burma’s government and opposition and ethnic parties. He also travelled to Mandalay, where he saw first-hand how British aid is helping ordinary Burmese people and supporting change in Burma.
Audio slideshow: Andrew Mitchell reflects on his visit to Burma
Pictures: Charlotte Morgan/DFID and Julian Simmonds/Daily Telegraph
Andrew Mitchell said:
Aung San Suu Kyi is an inspiration and a personal hero to many across the world. It is an immense honour to have met her. Her commitment to bringing real democracy and national reconciliation to Burma is a beacon of hope for the future. As I saw today on the visit we made to a school in Rangoon, she represents the hopes and dreams of Burma’s people.
I am making this unprecedented visit because there are tentative - but real - signs of progress in Burma, which I welcome. But my message is clear: we need urgent further progress. I call upon the Burmese government to release all political prisoners - including Min Ko Naing - immediately; to ensure the coming by-elections are free and fair; and to take steps to end the conflict on Burma’s borders and strengthen respect for human rights and the rule of law. These actions would signal the way for a fundamental shift in the relationship between Burma and Britain.
Andrew Mitchell was speaking after he and Aung San Suu Kyi together visited a school in Hlaingtharya township, Rangoon.
The British government stands ready to help the people of Burma further, through its aid and development programmes as well as its diplomatic efforts. No British aid is currently channelled through the Burmese Government.
British development programmes in Burma currently focus on tackling malaria and improving maternal health, supporting the rural poor, including through the provision of microfinance and basic education. But Andrew Mitchell has indicated that the programme could be enhanced in response to future change in Burma including building up government accountability to its people, and its ability to deliver basic services. This would also pave the way for wealth creation and a stronger role for the private sector.
Britain supports local charities, village groups and civil society and ethnic groups who are working to promote a peaceful, prosperous and democratic future from the bottom up.