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House of Commons Hansard
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Petitions
09 January 2018
Volume 634

Petition

OBSERVATIONS

Tuesday 9 January 2018

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Myanmar’s Muslim Ethnic Minority

The petition of residents of Lanarkshire,

Declares that urgent action should be taken to stop the violence against Myanmar’s Muslim ethnic minority; further that Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state have been indiscriminately targeted against in a recent increase of human rights abuses; further that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees claims that Rohingya Muslims are victims of acts such as: indiscriminate killings, torture, rapes/sexual assault and the destruction of mosques; and further that Myanmar’s Muslim population are being displaced internally and taking refuge elsewhere.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to call for an immediate end of violence against an already persecuted religious minority; further to set up an international commission to investigate the claims of atrocities and genocide for possible crimes against humanity; and further to set up with the international community a process to monitor and look into citizenship of Myanmar.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Marion Fellows, Official Report, 15 November 2017; Vol. 631, c. 2P.]

[P002078]

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

The Government remain deeply concerned by the situation facing the Rohingya of Rakhine State. Over 640,000 have fled from Burma to Bangladesh since late August 2017. This is a major humanitarian crisis created by Burma’s military. Although the violence in Rakhine has decreased, humanitarian needs are not being met and over 800 people a day are still crossing the border.

The UK has played a leading role in the international diplomatic and humanitarian response to the Rohingya crisis and will continue to do so. The Foreign Secretary convened a meeting of Foreign Ministers on Burma in New York in 18 September 2017 which ensured a clear international call for the Burmese authorities to stop the violence. The UK reinforced this by proposing and securing a presidential statement on Burma on 6 November 2017, the first Council product on Burma for ten years. This statement called on the Burmese authorities to urgently: stop the violence, protect civilians allow refugees to return and allow full humanitarian access. The statement stressed the importance of transparent investigations into allegations of human rights violations, and holding to account all those responsible for such acts. The UK is one of the largest bilateral donors to the assistance being provided by the international community to the Rohingya in Bangladesh, with a total contribution of £59 million.

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. I called for an independent international investigation into reports of human rights violations when I met Burma’s Defence Minister on 20 November 2017. Lord Ahmad, Minister for the Commonwealth and the UN, reinforced this when he represented the UK and secured support for a resolution at the special session of the UN Human Rights Council on 5 December 2017. The UK co-sponsored the resolution which was passed by the UN General Assembly on 24 December 2017, which recommended establishment of a UN Special Envoy to Burma to address these issues.

The UK will continue to work with international partners to maintain pressure on Burma’s civilian Government to allow a credible investigation and ensure accountability for the perpetrators of any crimes. The UK was central to the establishment of the UN Fact-Finding Mission, whose members I met on 15 December 2017 and whose important work the UK will continue to encourage. Furthermore, the UK has deployed two civilian experts to Bangladesh to conduct a capacity needs assessment on investigation and documentation of sexual violence, and to provide recommendations on support for evidence gathering. As the Foreign Secretary said in the House of Commons on 21 November 2017, it is vital that any evidence or testimony gathered is collated in the proper way, so relevant judicial authorities can determine whether or not the actions amount to genocide or other crimes under international law.

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 the issue of citizenship must be addressed in Rakhine by making progress on citizenship verification under the existing laws and by reviewing the controversial 1982 Citizenship Law. Aung San Suu Kyi has committed to implementing the Rakhine Advisory Commission’s recommendations. The UK Government have welcomed the report and the Burmese Government’s declared intention to implement its recommendations. I have spoken to two of the international members of the Advisory Board for the implementation of the Rakhine Advisory Commission’s recommendations. The UK stands ready to offer practical support to this work, which offers the best chance to improve the lives of all the communities of Rakhine.