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Canadian FM makes quick visit to Burma

(Mizzima) – Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird will be in Burma for one day on Thursday.

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird  Photo: WikipediaShortly after his arrival, he will meet President Thein Sein, Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann, Minister of Foreign Affaires Wunna Maung Lwin and Minister of Rail Transportation Aung Min, who is one of the peacemaking team leaders involved in negotiations with armed ethnic groups.

Baird will then fly to Rangoon to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, the chairwoman of the National League for Democracy  who is running for a seat in Parliament in the April 1 by-elections.

Canada downgraded its relations with Burma in late 1988 and imposed economic sanctions barring trade with the country and banning visas for high-ranking military officials.

A source told Canada’s Postmedia News. “While we're not at a point of lifting sanctions, we want to make sure advances made are not reversible.”

Aung San Suu Kyi – who was kept under house arrest for some 15 years – speaking via video conference to an audience at Carleton University in Canada last week, thanked Canada for its sanctions and help in pushing Burma closer to democracy.

“Canada has helped us greatly with regard to our movement toward democracy,” said Suu Kyi. Canada named her an honorary citizen in 2007.

She said there are positive signs the Burmese government is becoming more moderate, but, “Don't be too optimistic. Don't be too pessimistic. Try to see things as they are and try to keep contact with the ordinary people of Burma. The way in which you can continue to help us is to keep up your awareness of what is happening in Burma.”

Canadian Friends of Burma executive director Tin Maung Htoo said Canada’s conservative government has been taking a “wait-and-see” approach to Burma.

Elliot Tepper, a professor of political science at Carleton University, told the newspaper that Canada has stood out for its hardline pressure on Burma.

“The junta has been under severe sanctions by most countries of the world, but in particular by Canada,” he said. “This current government has been really strong on the issue of Burma, kind of a world leader in this regard.”

“The question on everyone's mind is how real it is, whether this is window dressing or will these reforms be institutionalized and lead to significant change,” he said.

Burma sent a full ambassador to Canada last year. In recent years, its top diplomat was a chargé d'affaires, indicating lower bilateral relations.
Last Updated ( Thursday, 08 March 2012 16:58 )  

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