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Burma: Rohingya People

Volume 684: debated on Monday 17 July 2006

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What representations they have made to the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights about the conditions in the Rohingya refugee camps on the border between Burma and Bangladesh; and [HL6789]

When they last made representations to the Government of Burma and the United Nations about the Rohingya people in Burma; and whether they will make joint representations with Governments of Islamic countries to raise the problems faced by the Rohingya to the appropriate United Nations bodies. [HL6790]

We have repeatedly raised the difficulties facing the Rohingya community with the Burmese Government. Our ambassador in Rangoon discussed issues concerning religious groups, including the Rohingya, when she called on the Burmese Minister for Foreign Affairs on 8 May. On 23 March, she wrote to the Burmese Foreign Minister drawing his attention to the interest that Parliament has shown in the issue. My right honourable friend the Minister with responsibility for trade, investment and foreign affairs, Ian McCartney, summoned the Burmese ambassador on 15 June and wrote to the Burmese Foreign Minister on 5 July, urging the Burmese Government to allow all Burmese citizens the freedom to express religious belief, including the freedom for the Rohingya community to build and repair mosques.

Embassy staff have raised the situation of the Rohingya with government officials during regular visits to Northern Rakhine State, the most recent of which took place in January 2006. They have also drawn the attention of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representatives in Burma to reports of abuses and encouraged them to raise them in their contacts with the local authorities. There are no plans to make to the UN joint representations with Governments of Islamic countries about the problems facing the Rohingya.

We have made no direct representations about the Rohingya to the UN. However, Professor Sérgio Pinheiro, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma, drew attention to the many problems faced by the Rohingya in his report of 7 February 2006. This report will be considered by the Human Rights Council in the session to be held from 18 September to 6 October.

Although we have made no representations to the UNHCR about conditions in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, the deterioration of conditions was noted by the director of UNHCR responsible for south Asia following a visit in May 2006. We continue to work closely with the UNHCR to find a practical and sustainable solution to this humanitarian problem.