Rushanara Ali MP calls on the UK Government to put pressure on Burma to urgently address the humanitarian crisis facing the Rohingya ahead of President Thein Sein’s visit to the UK

As President Thein Sein of Burma prepares for his upcoming visit to London, Rushanara Ali MP, Shadow Minister for International Development, has called on the UK Government to exert pressure on the Burmese authorities to address the humanitarian crisis in Burma and put human rights at the heart of their reform process.

Rushanara said:

“While it is right to acknowledge the progress towards political and economic reform that has been made in Burma since President Thein Sein took office, it is also right to express our deep concerns about the humanitarian situation in Rakhine State and the ongoing human rights abuses against the Rohingya, the wider Muslim community and other minorities in Burma. The international community should not ignore the considerable work that the Government of Burma still needs to do.

“I welcome President Thein Sein’s pledge to end all forms of discrimination and ensure not only that inter-communal violence is brought to a halt, but that all perpetrators are brought to justice. However, it is crucial that the UK Government and the international community continue to press him to make real that commitment. There are growing concerns regarding the disparity between the President’s words and his actions as Burma’s human rights record remains poor.

“Since inter-communal violence first broke out last year, Rohingya Muslims have been forced into segregated settlements and their movements have been restricted, stripping them of their livelihoods and rendering them reliant on aid. Displaced people are living in constant fear of violence, abuse and harassment both from the security services and from fears of a further attack from sections of the Rakhine population.

“There can be no impunity for those committing human rights abuses in Burma. Human Rights Watch’s recent report “All we can do is pray” concluded that crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing were being committed towards Burma’s Rohingya. Progress on ethnic reconciliation must remain the highest priority.

“Action is also urgently needed to address the mounting humanitarian crisis in the Rakhine State. Those in overcrowded displacement camps face multiple challenges and difficult or no access to basic humanitarian needs including healthcare, food and drinking water. They are also often the victims of violence and exploitation, and women in particular are especially vulnerable to sexual violence. For many in these camps, the only thing preventing an all out humanitarian disaster is the help and support provided by NGOs.

“President Thein Sein’s visit to London is a unique opportunity for Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague to press him and his Government to address some of these key human rights issues. It is crucial that this state visit does not lead to complacency from either the British or the Burmese Government.”

Rushanara called on the UK Government to:

  • Work with the international community to apply the strongest pressure on the Burmese authorities to facilitate immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access to affected areas and continue to support those living in displacement camps, in Rakhine State and also in other areas of major displacement, such as Kachin State.
  • Exert pressure on the Government of Burma to make urgent shelter arrangements during the rainy season and make healthcare and sanitation urgent priorities.
  • Continue to press for democratic reforms and complete respect for human rights in Burma and address the culture of marginalisation and discrimination of the Rohingya community by reviewing and restoring their citizenship rights where appropriate.
  • Encourage the Burmese authorities to support a safe and voluntary return process for the Rohingya with adequate protection.
  • Exert pressure on our international counterparts for an international inquiry into the events of June and October 2012 and March 2013.