Baroness Cox Presses UK Government on Ethnic Minorities in Burma

2 November 2017

With ongoing attacks by the Burmese Army against ethnic and religious minorities in Rhakhine, Kachin, and Shan states, Baroness Cox has pressed the UK government over its response. You can see more of Baroness Cox’s Questions for Written Answer here.

Rohingya children, who crossed over from Burma into Bangladesh, wait to receive aid during a distribution near Balukhali refugee camp, (Bangladesh AP/Dar Yasin)

Baroness Cox:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to ensure that EU Foreign Ministers, in their forthcoming meeting, respond to the situation affecting the Rohingya people with appropriate action; whether they will advocate reinforcing the arms embargo on the Burmese army, or seek a global arms embargo through the UN Security Council; and what other measures are being considered.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

The Foreign Secretary represented the UK at the EU Foreign Affairs Council on 16 October, securing agreement by member states to the suspension of all Burmese military visits to the EU and a review of all defence cooperation, and to consider additional measures if the situation in Rakhine does not improve. This followed the UK’s lead in suspending co-operation with the Burmese military announced by the Prime Minister in September

The EU retains its arms embargo for Burma, prohibiting the export of arms and equipment that could be used for internal repression. The UK is a vocal supporter of the ongoing retention of the EU arms embargo. Our assessment is that there is insufficient support amongst UN Security Council members for a global arms embargo on Burma.

Baroness Cox:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to ensure that the Burmese army ceases its attacks on civilians in Rakhine, Kachin and northern Shan states to allow unhindered access for international humanitarian aid agencies, human rights monitors and media to all affected areas in those states, and to implement the recommendations of the Rakhine Commission report, chaired by Kofi Annan.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

We continue to work with international partners to resolve this crisis. We have raised the situation in Rakhine three times at the UN Security Council, which has called for the Burmese authorities to stop the violence and allow humanitarian access. We are considering with other Council members what further steps are needed.

The Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific reiterated these calls with civilian and military leaders when he visited Burma from 25-27 September. Given the scale of the humanitarian assistance required, we continue to urge the Burmese authorities and the military in particular to allow greater access urgently.

The British Government remains concerned over continued human rights abuses in Burma’s ethnic border areas, where hostilities are still taking place. We have repeatedly called on the military to end hostilities comprehensively, and on all sides to enter into dialogue towards a sustainable and comprehensive nationwide ceasefire and political reconciliation process. The UK sponsored the UN Human Rights Council resolution in March 2017 which established a Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) to look into allegations of human right violations in Burma, and supported the Human Rights Council’s decision in September 2017 to extend the FFM’s mandate to cover the recent outbreak of violence in Rakhine.

The UK supports the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission led by Kofi Annan. We welcome the Burmese government’s establishment of the Ministerial Implementation Committee for the Rakhine Advisory Commission and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s announcement on 12 October of the establishment of a civilian force to deliver humanitarian assistance, resettlement of refugees, and long-term development in Rakhine. We are watching closely to ensure her positive words translate into swift action, and stand ready to ensure she gets the international political and technical support needed.

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