June 7th, 2013
Burma: ‘The euphoria is premature, misplaced and profoundly dangerous’
Baroness Cox joins a debate on the plight of Burma’s Ethnic Nationals
On Wednesday, in the House of Lords, Lord Alton asked what assessment the British Government have made of the progress being made in Burma to end ethnic tensions and to secure democracy. Later, he opened a full debate on Burma.
Lord Alton commented ‘that the euphoria [over Burma’s reforms] is premature, misplaced and profoundly dangerous’ and that in conversation with Aung San Suu Kyi, ‘she said that we must be less euphoric and more realistic, and that nations such as ours must get their response right.’
The debate highlighted two ethnic minority groups that have faced oppression and political marginalisation in the past year. Firstly, the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group ‘living in a system of 21st century apartheid… they need to introduce a new citizenship law in line with international norms.’ The Rohingya were made stateless by Burma’s 1982 citizenship act, which did not recognise them as Burmese citizens, despite having lived in Burma for centuries. As a result they have experienced severe persecution and the denial of many fundamental human rights. Recently the severity of persecution has increased and attacks have become more organised, even incited by some Buddhist monks.
Secondly, the Kachin peoples in northern Burma, a Christian minority who have been fighting a civil war with the Government in Burma for over two years. During that time the Government has targeted civilians and driven tens of thousands of people to camps along the border with China. An agreement was reached between the two parties earlier this week but many peers expressed fears over how long it will last. Baroness Cox highlighted that ‘the Burmese Government have a sorry record of brokering and breaking ceasefires.’
There is serious concern over the lack of humanitarian access to both these groups. The Government in Burma continues to deny the UN and other international organisations access to parts of Kachin State. Baroness Cox asked ‘What representations are being made by Her Majesty’s Government to the Burmese Government to allow access by international aid organisations to all people in need in Burma?’
The peers also discussed the EU’s recent decision to lift sanction against Burma. Baroness Nye commented ‘foreign investment will succeed only if there is a politically stable environment in which to do business. That means that human rights cannot be ignored in the rush to be in at the beginning of an expanding economy.’ Similarly, Baroness Cox commented that ‘all ethnic national peoples share fears that reforms may be used by the Burmese Government to further their own agenda’
Baroness Warsi responded on behalf of the British Government that ‘Burma’s remaining challenges are now best dealt with not through sanctions but through deeper engagement’.
On the issue of Burma’s Ethnic Nationals she said that ‘We continue to support the Government and the representatives of the ethnic groups to reach robust and sustainable peace agreements through a political process… but I take noble Lords’ points when they say that this has to move beyond peace agreements into real reconciliation.’
She closed by stating that ‘we will ensure that human rights, preventing further violence and ethnic reconciliation remain high on the agenda and, to respond directly to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, we will not stop looking for, speaking of, or supporting those who are still left in the dark.’
The full debate can be accessed here.
The full oral question can be accessed here
Click here to watch the debate.
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