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Burma: Ethnic Groups

Volume 473: debated on Thursday 13 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) if he will make a statement on the assassination of the General Secretary of the Karen National Union, Padoh Mahn Sha Lah Phan; (192880)

(2) what steps he has taken to raise the assassination of the General Secretary of the Karen National Union (a) with the regime in Burma, (b) with the Royal Thai Government and (c) the United Nations.

The death of the Secretary-General of the Karen National Union, Pado Mahn Sha, on 14 February, further underlines the need for a comprehensive and equitable settlement of Burma’s ethnic conflicts. The failure of the regime’s roadmap to meet the aspirations of the ethnic groups, including the Karen, for a greater degree of autonomy, is fuelling internal divisions and violence.

We continue to raise a range of issues relating to the ethnic groups with our partners in the region, internationally and with representatives of the ethnic groups themselves, including the exile community. I raised the issue of the death of Pado Mahn Sha with the Thai Minister of Interior during my visit to Thailand on 29 February. Meeting the aspirations of the ethnic groups was a fundamental demand in the UN presidential statement of 11 October 2007.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions the Government has had with the Karen National Union on (a) the security and humanitarian situation in Karen State and (b) the political situation in Burma. (192882)

We remain engaged with a wide range of stakeholders and representatives of the ethnic groups in Burma. We are concerned about the situation in Karen State. Attacks carried out by the Burmese army on civilians in northern and western Karen State have been particularly intense over the past two years These have resulted in a significant increase in the number of internally displaced people and refugees on the Thai/Burmese border We have repeatedly called for a halt to such offensives and have urged both the military regime and the Karen National Union to intensify their efforts to find a peaceful settlement that will bring about a permanent end to the conflict. We continue to support Aung San Suu Kyi’s statement of 8 November 2007 calling for a genuine national dialogue between the government, opposition parties and ethnic groups in Burma. We believe that this statement is all the more relevant in light of the regime’s announcement to hold a referendum on the constitution in May 2008 and elections in 2010. If the process is to lead to national reconciliation and stability, it must allow for the full participation of opposition and ethnic groups.