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Volume 405: debated on Wednesday 21 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had regarding human rights in Burma. [113710]

On 7 May 2003 I met the Burmese Ambassador to the UK and expressed my concern at the number of political prisoners in Burma. I urged the Burmese authorities to move ahead quickly with the release of all political prisoners. I explained that UK and EU policy would toughen unless there was significant improvement in human rights and progress towards democracy.

I remain in close contact with the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy to Burma, Razali Ismail. When I met Razali in March, I expressed my concern over the deteriorating economic, political and human rights situation in Burma.

The EU decided to strengthen and update the EU Common Position on Burma on 14 April 2003. The Common Position contains a range of measures designed to bring pressure to bear on the military regime to move towards national reconciliation, respect for human rights and democracy in Burma. EU Ministers agreed that unless substantive political progress was made in Burma before 20 October 2003, the Common Position would further strengthen the arms embargo, visa ban and assets freeze.