Burma Campaign UK has been saying for a long time that the British government has been looking at Burma through rose-tinted glasses. They have downplayed human rights problems and talked up positives, ignoring the reality on the ground.
Last week Aung San Suu Kyi publicly said what has been clear for some time, the reform process in Burma has 'stalled'.
The number of political prisoners is going back up, repression of the Rohingya is increasing, new laws are being proposed to restrict the right of women to marry non-Buddhists, Burmese Army attacks in ethnic states continue, as has the use of rape and sexual violence. Any vague hope that the Constitution might be changed to allow Aung San Suu Kyi to stand for the Presidency has faded.
This week US President Obama is in Burma. He has also warned that there has been 'backsliding' on reforms. The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma has repeatedly warned of 'backtracking' of the reform process.
The response of the British Prime Minister David Cameron and his government has been to play Ostrich, sticking his head in the sand and pretending it isn't happening. Two years ago he was issuing regular gushing statements praising President Thein Sein, now things are going badly he is silent. When Foreign Office ministers are questioned in Parliament about ongoing human rights abuses, they avoid giving straight answers or admitting statistics such as the number of political prisoners doubling, or that ethnic cleansing is taking place against the Rohingya.
It is time that David Cameron and his government take off their rose-tinted glasses and publicly admit that reforms have stalled. They must accept that their policy of befriending the military-backed government has not delivered improvements in human rights as they claimed it would. Instead it has had the opposite effect. They relaxed too much pressure too soon and reduced the motivation for the military-backed government to introduce deeper, more fundamental reforms.