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Rohingya People

Volume 631: debated on Tuesday 21 November 2017

3. What recent representations he has made to his counterpart in Myanmar on the treatment of the Rohingya people in that country. (901942)

I have made repeated representations, as the hon. Lady can imagine, to the Government of Burma, and particularly to Aung San Suu Kyi—I have now spoken to her three times—to urge the return of the refugees. We secured the first UN Security Council statement on Burma in a decade, and I know that is a subject in which you take a particular interest, Mr Speaker. Burma must heed these calls from the international community and take the necessary steps that we have set out.

Three months on from the start of the current crisis, we all continue to be shocked and horrified by the tragic stories of the plight of the Rohingya people fleeing to Bangladesh and by the scale of the crisis. EU member states, as well as the US Congress, are reportedly considering reimposing some sanctions against Myanmar’s leaders. What discussions have Ministers had on that with EU member states, and what will be the Government’s position?

I have indeed raised this already, as the hon. Lady can imagine, with our European friends and partners. At the Foreign Affairs Council on 16 October we got agreement around the table that we will suspend Burmese military visits and review all defence co-operation. We got a further agreement to consider additional measures if the situation does not improve, and we will indeed now be doing so.

16. The UN has made it clear that Muslims in Rakhine state should receive a legal status that allows them to lead a normal life and, in time, be granted full nationality, with freedom of movement and access to labour markets, education and health services. Will my right hon. Friend continue to press those demands through the United Nations and directly with the Burmese authorities? (901955)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that that is critical. If those 608,000 people are to have any confidence about the prospect of their return, they must have clarity about their citizenship and their treatment when they come back to Burma and Rakhine. That is why the Annan plan makes it absolutely clear that there must be citizenship rights and investment in the development of equal treatment for all of Rakhine’s ethnic groups.

21. This morning Amnesty International released a report highlighting repression of and rights violations against the Rohingya people every single day. Amnesty compares Myanmar to an open-air prison. Can the Minister tell us whether the Government will support sanctions against Myanmar? What discussions has he had about that with other member states? (901960)

In answer to the hon. Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden), I detailed what we have been doing with our EU friends and partners. We have secured agreement to suspend military visits, and we will review matters with our friends and partners as things develop.

I would have called the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mary Robinson) if she had been standing, but she was not, so I did not, but now she is, so I will.

17. Thank you, Mr Speaker. Since the outbreak of the recent shocking violence in Rakhine more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees have crossed the border into neighbouring Bangladesh, where there is an urgent need for additional land for shelters to provide life-saving services and aid. In the light of the desperate situation, what support are the Government offering to the Bangladeshi Government so that refugees can have access to the basic essentials of existence, such as clean water, medicine and shelter? (901956)

My hon. Friend is entirely right. The UK is one of the biggest participants, having been either the biggest or second biggest donor to the humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh. We should all congratulate the Government of Bangladesh on the forbearance and energy they have put into coping with this appalling crisis. The UK is contributing £47 million, which has helped to provide for 174,000 people. We have provided safe water and sanitation for more than 138,000, and emergency shelter for 130,000; we have provided aid, counselling and psychological support that will reach more than 10,000 women suffering from trauma and 2,000 survivors of sexual violence; and we have provided medical help for more than 50,000 pregnant women to give birth safely. That is a record of help and support for the crisis of which the whole House can be proud.

There has been potent evidence of the fact that ethnic cleansing and genocide is taking place in Burma, so what actions or steps have our Government, with the United Nations, taken to bring about prosecution in the international courts of the Buddhist monks and the generals for carrying out ethnic cleansing?

I agree very much with the hon. Lady that, unless the refugees are allowed to return, this crisis —this purge—will indeed satisfy the definition of ethnic cleansing. As for genocide, I am afraid we have recently received evidence of a very troubling kind, and we will make sure that such testimony of what has been taking place is collated and used so that the proper judicial authorities can determine whether it answers to the definition of genocide. As she will know, genocide is a strict legal term, and we hesitate to deploy it without a proper judicial decision.

The Burmese military have produced an absurd report claiming that not a single innocent life has been lost and that they have not been involved in any violence against the Rohingya. Does my right hon. Friend agree that no whitewash report will cover up all the mounting evidence of the atrocities carried out against the Rohingya?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend that it is vital that the Burmese Government acknowledge the scale of what is happening and the horror with which events are being greeted around the world. For many years, the world has looked to Aung San Suu Kyi as a great moral leader. We still salute her for her struggle for democracy in the face of the generals, but it is vital now that she stands up to condemn what is happening and brings the nation together. I am sorry to say that so far the Burmese Government have failed to do that.