Although an invitation to the British royal wedding for the Syrian ambassador to the UK was withdrawn, it has emerged that an invitation has been sent to the Burmese delegation in the UK for the April 29 nuptials. Speaking to The Irrawaddy, a UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) press official said that as the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William is a family event rather than a formal state occasion, invitations are issued by the families involved. He added that “representatives of countries with which the UK has formal diplomatic relations have been invited.”
The FCO said that the invitation sent to Syrian ambassador Dr Sami Khiyami in London was rescinded following reports that up to 400 pro-democracy protesters have been killed in Syria by security forces in recent weeks.
FCO Permanent Undersecretary Simon Fraser summoned the Syrian ambassador to the FCO on April 26 for a dressing-down over the recent violence, as protests in the Arab Middle East and North Africa region spread.
In a press statement, the FCO said: “Buckingham Palace shares the view of the Foreign Office that it is not considered appropriate for the Syrian ambassador to attend the wedding.”
A Buckingham Palace official was quoted by the BBC as saying that the palace takes advice from the FCO on diplomatic issues, implying that the FCO and British government have a say in who attends the wedding.
The same criteria that have been used with Syria appear not have been applied in the Burmese case, irking activists based in the UK.
“It is shameful that the royal family have invited the Burmese ambassador to the wedding. He is an ambassador for a regime which is raping ethnic women, torturing opponents, and mortar bombing civilian villages,” said Mark Farmaner of the Burma Campaign UK.
The fact that Syria is now in the media spotlight due to the recent violence appears to have affected the decision to withdraw the invitation. While the UK has an embassy in Burma, it was a leading advocate for the European Union’s retention of sanctions against the Burmese regime and various business people in Burma at the recent EU review of Burma policy.
Farmaner says that if the criteria were applied fairly, the invitation to the Burmese delegation to the UK should be withdrawn as well.
“The Burmese regime is committing abuses far worse than the Syrian regime, and the Syrian ambassador has had his invite withdrawn,” he said.
The Crown Prince of Bahrain was invited to the ceremony, but is said to have pulled out of attending the wedding after a violent clampdown on Shi’ite protesters there, so as not to overshadow the event.
Others to pull out include the King of Cambodia, Norodom Sihamoni, and Irish rugby star Brian O’Driscoll, whose team will play a European Cup semi-final on Saturday.