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Volume 404: debated on Wednesday 7 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the Royal Thai Government to request that (a) Thailand will officially host talks between the Burmese military and the ethnic nationalities, (b) the Thai mediation between the SPDC and the ethnic groups is open and transparent, (c) the future of Burma's national reconciliation will be at the heart of the mediation process and (d) ethnic leaders are allowed to meet officially on Thai soil to discuss their future. [110607]

We are in regular contact with the Thai Government concerning the full range of Burma related issues. However we have not made any formal request to the Thai authorities concerning possible Thai mediation on questions concerning Burmese ethnic minority groups and the military regime. Unfortunately, there is no evidence to suggest that the Burmese military regime is yet prepared to enter into substantive discussions/negotiations with Burmese political parties. The primary channel for encouraging national reconciliation in Burma is the United Nations Secretary General's Special Envoy to Burma, Tan Sri Razali Ismail. We continue to give Tan Sri Razali Ismail our full support and co-operation.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government (a) have taken and (b) will take to (i) facilitate the New Panglong Initiatives undertaken by representatives of the eight Burma States, (ii) encourage ethnic representations in the national reconciliation process and (iii) engage with and meet ethnic representatives officially. [110608]

Active participation and agreement by Burma's ethnic minority groups will be an essential ingredient in any successful process of national reconciliation in Burma. We welcome and encourage initiatives that help prepare the ethnic minority groups for constructive and successful participation in substantive dialogue on these issues. The UK, EU partners and others are pressing for substantive political dialogue to begin in Burma.We maintain regular contact with representatives of Burmese ethnic minority groups through our Embassy in Rangoon. FCO officials in London held a meeting on 24 April with a delegation of religious leaders from Burma, including representatives from ethnic minority groups.