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Myanmar’s Muslim Ethnic Minority

Volume 633: debated on Wednesday 20 December 2017

The petition of residents of Scunthorpe County Constituency,

Declares that urgent action should be taken to stop the violence against Myanmar’s Muslim ethnic minority, the Rohingya including genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity; and further declares that the petitioners believe Rohingya Muslims are not recognised as citizens in Myanmar.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to issue an urgent statement calling for an immediate end to all violence in Myanmar; further calling for immediate entry aid into Myanmar; and further requests that the House of Commons urge the Government to reach out to State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi to recognise the Rohingya Muslim community as citizens and grant legal status.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Nic Dakin, Official Report, 11 October 2017; Vol. 629, c. 411.]


Observations from the Minister for Asia and the Pacific (Mark Field):

We remain deeply concerned by what is happening to the Rohingya. Over 650,000 have fled from Burma to Bangladesh since 25 August 2017. This is a major humanitarian crisis created by Burma’s military. Although the violence in Rakhine has decreased, humanitarian needs are still not being met and over 1,000 people a week are still crossing the border. The Government have been clear in their condemnation of the terrible atrocities that have occurred in Rakhine State. There is no equivocation: we recognise this has been ethnic cleansing.

The UK has played a leading role in the international diplomatic and humanitarian response to the Rohingya crisis and will continue to do so. I was the first foreign Minister from outside the region to visit Rakhine state in Burma after the crisis began in late August. The UK has now raised Burma five times at the United Nations Security Council, most recently on 12 December, when the UK conveyed the ongoing seriousness of the crisis and made clear that the situation continues to merit close UNSC attention. On 6 November the Security Council adopted a Presidential Statement on Burma, the first Council product on Burma for 10 years. This delivered a clear message from the international community that the Burmese authorities must urgently: stop the violence; protect civilians; allow refugees to return and allow full humanitarian access. I called on Burmese Government Ministers to heed these calls and take the necessary steps to implement them during my second visit to Burma on 20 and 21 November. The Security Council statement also called on the Government of Burma to address the root causes of the conflict, including through the implementation of the Rakhine Advisory Commission recommendations.

Elsewhere within the UN, we worked with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to prepare and co-sponsor a UN General Assembly resolution on Burma. This secured the support of 135 member states on 16 November and serves as a powerful message to the Burmese authorities of the damage being done to Burma’s international reputation.

On 5 December the UK supported Bangladesh in its proposal for a Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council, attended by Lord Ahmad. The UK was pleased to co-sponsor and vote in support of the resulting resolution: 33 states voted in favour. Additionally, we supported the September decision of the UN Human Rights Council to extend the mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission to September 2018.

In terms of humanitarian assistance, the UK is one of the largest bilateral donors to the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh. Most recently, on 27 November the Secretary of State for International Development was in Bangladesh and announced a further £12 million of funding for the Rohingya crisis. This brought the UK’s total commitment to date to £59 million.

Our aid is making a tangible, substantial difference on the ground, including providing food to 174,000 people, safe water and sanitation for more than 138,000 people and emergency shelter for over 130,000 people. In addition, emergency nutrition support will reach more than 60,000 children under five and 21,000 pregnant and lactating women. Medical help will assist over 50,000 pregnant women to give birth safely. Counselling and psychological support will reach over 10,000 women suffering from the trauma of war and over 2,000 survivors of sexual violence.

Access for humanitarian assistance within Northern Rakhine, however, is urgently needed. The lack of access on the Burma side means vital needs will not be met and lives lost. We urgently call upon the Burmese military to end the violence in Rakhine and the Government of Burma to allow immediate and full humanitarian access and support for the people and communities affected. The Red Cross and the World Food Programme are currently the only aid organisations with permission to provide humanitarian support in Northern Rakhine.

The UK believes the Rohingya of Rakhine State should be given citizenship status in Burma. The Kofi Annan-led Rakhine Advisory Commission (RAC) makes clear that citizenship must be addressed in order to make progress in Rakhine, by making progress on citizenship verification under the existing laws; and reviewing the controversial 1982 Citizenship Law. Aung San Suu Kyi has committed to implementing the RAC’s recommendations. We have repeatedly welcomed the RAC’s report and the Burmese Government’s declared intention to implement its recommendations. We continue to urge the Burmese authorities to ensure basic rights for all residents in Burma.