Juppe in Myanmar on historic visit
AFP YANGON THE French foreign minister arrived in Myanmar on Saturday for a historic trip, the highest level diplomat from his country to ever visit, in a bid to encourage the new leaders’ reform process.
Alain Juppe “wants to encourage President Thein Sein and Myanmar’s authorities to continue and amplify this movement” with steps towards human rights, democracy and national reconciliation, his ministry said this week.
He will also insist that parliamentary by-elections on April 1 are held “in a manner consistent with democratic practices” after a general election in November 2010 that was denounced by the West as a sham.
A diplomatic source told AFP that Juppe arrived in commercial hub Yangon late on Saturday, the day after Myanmar released just over 300 political prisoners, including several prominent dissidents.
Such an amnesty had been long demanded by the West and was hailed by the international community. France welcomed such an “important step” and the United States said it wanted to restore toplevel diplomatic ties.
Juppe is due Sunday to meet opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whom he will make a Commander in the National Order of the Legion d’Honneur, and on Monday he will hold talks with Thein Sein.
He is the first French foreign minister in history to visit the Southeast Asian country, which gained independence from Britain in 1948, and the first French minister to visit since a popular uprising was brutally crushed in 1988.
His trip follows the landmark visits in early December of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and British Foreign Secretary William Hague in early January.