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Burma: Ethnic Groups

Volume 495: debated on Wednesday 1 July 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what representations he has made to the government of Burma on the military offensive against the Karen ethnic group; and if he will make a statement; (282491)

(2) what discussions he has had at the United Nations on the Burmese offensive against the Karen ethnic group.

We are deeply concerned about the situation in Karen State and reports of renewed fighting between the Karen National Union and the Democratic Karen Buddhist army, who are supported by the Burmese army. Attacks carried out by the Burmese army and their Karen client organisations on civilians in Karen State have been particularly intense over the past two years. We hope to highlight our concerns in a UN Security Council discussion on the protection of civilians in armed conflict on 26 June 2009.

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. Most recently at meetings between our ambassador and Burmese Ministers on 18 and 19 June 2009. In response to the recent upsurge in violence and reports of large numbers of civilians fleeing over the Thai border, the Czech presidency of the EU, with our strong support, issued a statement on 11 June 2009 calling for an end to the hostilities. It expressed particular concern about the humanitarian impact of the ongoing conflict. We fully support this call and our embassy in Rangoon continues to monitor the situation closely.