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Burma

Volume 401: debated on Tuesday 18 March 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will ban new investment by UK companies in Burma. [103312]

As I made clear in the House of Commons on 10 December 2002, Official Report, column 154, the UK does not encourage trade or investment in Burma. Companies wishing to trade or invest in Burma receive no assistance at all from the UK Government. Companies inquiring about trade or investment are told of our policy and advised of the appalling human rights situation and the economic incompetence and corruption of the Burmese regime. A combination of international opinion and the regime's economic incompetence means that there is hardly any new investment in Burma and that established companies, such as Premier Oil, have pulled out.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Burmese military against the Karen, Karenni and Shan civilians in Burma. [103314]

We receive numerous reports of very serious cases of human rights abuse in Burma. However, war crimes and crimes against humanity are carefully defined under law and these are not phrases that have been used by the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Burma to describe the situation.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received about human rights abuses by the Government of Burma of the Karen, Karenni and Shan peoples. [103315]

We receive a regular flow of credible reports from non-governmental organisations and the United Nations—including the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights—that re-affirm our grave concern over the human rights situation in Burma, including abuses directed at the Shan, Karen and Karenni. The reports confirm that very little progress has been made by the Burmese regime to improve its human rights record.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he and his European Union partners have made to the Government of Burma about that government's treatment of the Karen, Karenni and Shan people. [103319]

A core aspect of UK and EU policy is action to press for an end to human rights abuses. Burmese ethnic minority groups, including the Shan, Karen and Karenni suffer the effects of this abuse disproportionately. The EU co-sponsored a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly in November 2002 that condemned the regime's human rights record. We are currently preparing a further resolution for presentation at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in April. This is in addition to regular EU statements and demarches to the Burmese regime about the situation.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to help broker a ceasefire between the Burmese military government and Karen, Karenni and Shan resistance groups. [103321]

I have been encouraged by reports that some of the insurgent groups fighting the Burmese regime are prepared to consider negotiating a ceasefire. The EU has called for the peaceful end to the conflicts in Burma in resolutions at the United Nations General Assembly. We strongly support the idea in principle and stand ready to help assist the process in the most effective way.