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Burma: Politics and Government

Volume 506: debated on Monday 22 February 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment his Department has made of the political situation in Burma. (316579)

The Government remain deeply concerned about the lack of progress towards democracy and respect for human rights in Burma. Planned elections will have no international legitimacy while over 2,100 political prisoners remain in detention. Aung San Suu Kyi's appeal has reached its final stage. We call on the military government to release her, along with all other political prisoners, and begin a dialogue with the opposition and ethnic groups that would lay the foundations for a genuine and inclusive transition to democracy.

As elections approach, the democratic opposition and Burma's ethnic groups face a difficult dilemma. If they participate in the elections they risk legitimising a process they know to be flawed. Boycott the elections and they risk further marginalisation and exclusion from the political process. This is not a decision we can or should presume to make for them.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he plans to take in response to Burma's announcement that plans are underway to hold elections in a systematic way in 2010; and if he will make a statement. (316584)

The UK position on planned elections in Burma is well known. Unless Aung San Suu Kyi, and all other political prisoners are released, and the regime initiates an inclusive dialogue with the democratic opposition and ethnic groups, the elections will have no credibility or international legitimacy. As the elections approach, the UK will work to maintain tough EU sanctions targeted at the regime's economic interests, and press Burma's neighbours, including China, India and ASEAN countries to use their influence to secure real progress. We will also work in the UN's human rights bodies to highlight the ongoing and systematic human rights abuses in the country.

The planned elections should be an historic opportunity to reverse Burma's steady decline into poverty, stagnation and international isolation. It is difficult to be optimistic that the military regime will seize this opportunity, but the UK will continue to use all diplomatic channels to press them to do so.