I know that a number of human rights organisations continue to raise very serious concerns about the treatment of Rohingya in Burma, and I can assure you that I share these concerns. The recent escalation in violence and associated reports of alleged human rights violations in Rakhine State are very worrying, as are the restrictions on humanitarian access.
As you may know, throughout August 2017 there were an estimated 688,000 more refugees that have fled the border into Bangladesh, amongst them an estimated 378,000 children, following unspeakable violence and systematic abuse including rape, torture, and murder by the Burmese military. Refugees are living in desperate squalor and poverty in hugely over-crowded camps in the Cox’s Bazar district.
Of course, we all welcome the significant progress that has been made so far in Burma’s political transition after years of military dictatorship. However, we also need to see progress in addressing the continuing plight of the Rohingya community. The Burmese authorities must address these issues and, although the establishment of the Rakhine Commission in August 2016 was an important step, recent events have only emphasised the need for long-term, sustainable solutions.
On the 5th September I spoke in an Urgent Question brought by Labour about this awful situation. The Minister’s response was very disappointing, he failed to condemn the genocide and he failed to call on Aung Sann Suu Kyi to take action. You can see the response I was given by the Minister and read the full debate here.
Human rights should be at the heart of our foreign policy and the Government must use Britain’s influence to stand up for the rights and freedoms that all human beings are entitled to, including religious freedom. It is therefore vital that the Government continue to raise human rights concerns with the Burmese authorities, including the persecution and poverty that many Rohingya are suffering. The Government must also continue to press the case for unfettered humanitarian access to the Rohingya people.
As requested I have written to the Foreign Secretary to ask when a suitable time would be to table a resolution referring Myanmar to the International Criminal Court so the Generals, who have dismissed the UN’s claims of ethnic cleansing and genocide by saying that the Rohingya had burned down their houses, can be brought to account. I can assure you that as soon as I have received a response I will contact you again.
I will continue to bear in mind the points you raise and ensure that the issue is raised as often as possible in Parliament.