No Burma visit for Charles and Camilla

Updated: 

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are to visit Singapore, Malaysia and India this autumn - but despite reports, will not travel to Burma.

It had been widely speculated the heir to the throne and his wife would visit the south-east Asian country during their traditional autumn tour, despite turmoil in parts of the nation.

Burma has faced widespread condemnation from the international community after more than half a million Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh to escape a Burmese military operation condemned as ethnic cleansing.

A Rohingya child walks with firewood near Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh
A Rohingya child walks with firewood near Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh (Zakir Hossain Chowdhury/AP)

The crackdown was in response to a series of deadly attacks on security posts by Muslim insurgents.

Clarence House announced at a press briefing the Prince and Duchess will make an 11-day trip starting in Singapore on October 30 before moving on to Malaysia and ending in India.

Scott Furssedonn-Wood, the Prince's deputy private secretary for foreign and Commonwealth affairs, said the visit was taken at the request of the Government.

He added: "Their royal highnesses are delighted to be returning to India, and to be visiting Singapore and Malaysia for the first time together."

The Royal tour will celebrate the UK's partnership with these Commonwealth Nations. Full info: https://t.co/ZsQTTmniX5

-- Clarence House (@ClarenceHouse) October 3, 2017

The deputy private secretary said during the tour, Charles and Camilla "will undertake nearly 50 engagements that showcase the breadth and depth of the United Kingdom's relationship with these key Commonwealth partners in advance of a Commonwealth summit in London next April".

Philip Malone, south-east Asia department director at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) was asked at the press briefing at what point in the FCO's considerations and why was Burma rejected.

He replied: "For a tour like this you look at a range of options and we decided to go with Singapore and Malaysia."

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall during a previous visit to India
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall during a previous visit to India (Chris Jackson/PA)

Pressed about when in the process Burma was rejected, he replied: "These visits are planned over a number of months, preparations are made and you get to the point, working with Scott and his team here, where we decide on the ones that we will pursue for the visit."

Charles and Camilla met Burma's de facto leader and Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi at their official London home in May for talks, before problems in Burma were apparent.

Ms Suu Kyi, whose position as state counsellor does not give her authority over the military, has faced international criticism for her failure to speak out against alleged human rights abuses including mass killings, gang rapes and the burning of villages.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall with Burma's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi
Charles and Camilla with Aung San Suu Kyi (John Stillwell/PA)

The Prince knew the leader's late husband Michael Aris, a Tibetan scholar, who endured years without his wife when she was under house arrest in Burma during her fight to end military rule in her country.

Mr Aris, 53, died of prostate cancer in 1999 and in that year Charles became patron of the Michael Aris Memorial Trust for Tibetan and Himalayan Studies.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has called on Ms Suu Kyi to "show the leadership she is capable of to try to heal that terrible situation".

During the visit, Charles and Camilla will be flown in the ministerial Voyager jet, a dual purpose refuelling aircraft that has also been refurbished to carry senior government ministers and members of the monarchy on official trips.

The Duchess will arrive in Singapore separately for the start of the tour after spending a few days on a private holiday.