News In Depth
PM pushes for Burma reconciliation
Prime Minister David Cameron's visit to Burma is the latest effort to bring the troubled country back into the international fold after taking tentative steps to restoring democracy.
Britain is pushing for a process of national reconciliation to end the fighting between the government and the country's ethnic minorities, such as the Kachins, and to bring them into the mainstream political process.
President Thein Sein unexpectedly embarked on a series of liberalising measures after coming to office last year, including opening talks with Nobel Peace Prize winner and pro-democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi.
His nominally civilian government also released more than 200 political prisoners and legalised trade unions after years of hardline military rule.
Critics caution however that significant numbers of political prisoners - variously estimated to number between 590 and 1,700 - remain behind bars, despite government promises to free them, while reports of abuses against ethnic minorities continue.
By-elections held on April 1 - in which the opposition National League for Democracy won 43 out of the 44 seats it contested - were largely praised by overseas governments.
Foreign Secretary William Hague described the results as "historic" for the troubled nation.
Mr Cameron's visit follows that of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in December. Announcing that trip, American President Barack Obama praised the country's civilian government for encouraging "flickers of progress" after "years of darkness".
Last week, the US announced that it was to ease sanctions on Burma in response to its move towards democracy.
The European Union is currently considering a similar relaxation of its restrictions on the nation.
According to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) there are "stringent restrictions" on freedom of movement and speech in Burma.
British Embassy officials are not allowed to travel freely outside Rangoon without prior permission from the Burmese government, except to a limited number of destinations.
Credit and debit cards are not widely accepted, and tourists are advised to bring enough US dollars in pristine condition for the duration of their stay.
The former military regime changed the country's name to Myanmar in 1989, but the democracy movement prefers to use Burma because they do not accept that the military had a legitimate right to make the decision.
Britain's policy is to refer to the country as Burma, although both names are used internationally.