_By Hkanhpa Sadan
Joint General Secretary of the Kachin National Organisation (KNO) & friend of the OBA
Originally published 26 April 2012 by The Oxford Student (reprinted with permission)

On Friday 13th April, David Cameron became the first British Prime Minister to visit Burma since independence in 1948.  He said the UK would argue in favour of suspending – not lifting – all EU sanctions on Burma, except the arms embargo. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi also backed this position. Since the UK has been the only EU member arguing to keep sanctions in place, sanctions are likely to be suspended, probably after the meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council on 23rd April 2012.

The day before the PM prepared for his historic visit to Burma, he praised President Thein Sein for his “courage” in introducing political reforms.  He stated: “If Burma moves towards democracy then we should respond in kind, and we should not be slow in doing that. But, first I want to go and see for myself on the ground how things are going.” I am sure that David Cameron saw signs of progress, especially “on the ground” in Yangon and central Burma, which is the main majority Burman populated area of the country. I am from Kachin State, in the north of the country, but for me, my relatives and my friends, change “on the ground” has not yet come. In fact, in recent months the situation has deteriorated dramatically.

_By Katie Myint, OBA Member
Jesus College, Oxford
23 April 2012

I'm a third year studying medicine at Jesus College. During the Easter vacation, I travelled to Burma for experience at the Jivitadana Sangha Hospital in the former capital, Yangon (formerly Rangoon), in order to learn about healthcare in a developing country.            

The humanitarian crisis in Burma has been described by the Human Rights Watch as one of the worst in the world. Over a third of Burmese people live on less than $1 a day, and this is reflected in the major causes of death: tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, malaria, diarrhoea and malnutrition; most of these are diseases of poverty, and preventable. Unfortunately healthcare provision in Burma is poor, with a lack of equipment and medicine which is directly attributable to the shockingly low government expenditure on health in Burma.

The Burmese government spends approximately $23 per person on health each year, a measly sum in comparison to $345 per person in neighbouring Thailand, and $3399 per person in the United Kingdom (WHO, 2009). The quality of healthcare in Burma is so poor that Burmese government officials are known to travel to Thailand and Singapore to receive better care. Sadly, this is simply not an option for most ordinary Burmese people, who cannot afford the expense.


Oxford Burma Alliance