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Burma

Volume 454: debated on Thursday 14 December 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations have been made to the Burmese Government on the ability of international NGOs to operate in that country; and if she will make a statement. (104859)

We have strongly urged the Burmese Government to ensure the UN and international non-governmental organisations can address Burma’s pressing humanitarian needs, in particular through the Three Diseases Fund. Our ambassador in Rangoon emphasised this in his meeting with the Burmese Foreign Minister and Deputy Foreign Minister on 18 August.

The UK played an active role in drafting the UN General Assembly resolution, adopted on 20 November, which calls for safe and unhindered access to all parts of Burma for the UN and international humanitarian organisations.

We are extremely concerned about the Burmese Government’s decision to order the closure of the field offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). My right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs (Mr. McCartney) and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Thomas) released statements on 28 and 29 November respectively, strongly condemning the Burmese Government’s actions. Our embassy in Rangoon has expressed our concerns about the ICRC to Burmese Government Ministers. The EU issued a statement on 5 December. The full text of the statement can be found at:

http://www.eu2006.fi/news_and_documents/cfsp_statements/vko49/en_GB/1165317636066/

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will move the British embassy in Burma to the capital in Naypyidaw. (108726)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what contact the British embassy in Burma has had with the Union Solidarity and Development Association in the past year. (108727)

Our embassy in Rangoon has had no contact with the Union Solidarity and Development Association in the past year.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the effect of the Union Solidarity and Development Association on the political situation in Burma. (108728)

The Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) is officially termed a ‘social organisation’ and is involved in some social and charitable activities. However, it is also used by the Burmese Government to promote their political aims. Membership is compulsory for most government employees. Others are threatened or induced to join. The USDA is widely believed to have been involved in the attacks on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s convoy at Depayin in 2003 and in the intimidation they suffered on earlier trips. There are unconfirmed reports that the Burmese Government intend to transform the USDA into a pro-Government political party which would contest any forthcoming general election.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the outcome of UN Envoy Ibrahim Gambari’s recent visit to Burma. (108729)

I refer the hon. Member to the answers I gave to the hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) on 27 November 2006, Official Report, columns 463-64W, and 4 December 2006, Official Report, columns 69-70W.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations she has made to the regime ruling Burma on the detention of (a) Min Ko Naing and (b) other student leaders. (108730)

I issued a statement on 2 October calling for the release of Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi, Htay Kway, Min Zeya and Myint Aye. The statement was delivered to the Home and Foreign Affairs Ministries in Burma. The EU released a statement on 5 October and followed this up with a demarche on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 23 October.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether discussions on a replacement for the UN special envoy to Burma have taken place at the UN; and which candidates have been put forward by the UK Government. (108731)

Discussions have taken place at official level about the possibility of appointing a new UN Special Envoy to Burma. No decision has been taken and no candidates have been put forward by the Government.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with the Governments of (a) Cuba and (b) Venezuela on the UN General Assembly resolution on Burma. (108732)

We have had no discussions with the Governments of Cuba and Venezuela on the UN General Assembly resolution on Burma. Representatives of both Cuba and Venezuela made clear their opposition to this resolution on its adoption in the General Assembly’s Third Committee. But neither country made representations to the UK delegation or to the Finnish Presidency of the European Union during negotiations.