Burma

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 15th June 2004.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mark Lazarowicz Mark Lazarowicz Labour/Co-operative, Edinburgh North and Leith 11:30 am, 15th June 2004

What representations he has made to the regime in Burma about human rights and the treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

We regularly raise the Government's concerns about human rights with the regime in Burma, and we have repeatedly called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, most recently when my hon. Friend the Minister for Trade and Investment met the Burmese ambassador on 1 June.

Photo of Mark Lazarowicz Mark Lazarowicz Labour/Co-operative, Edinburgh North and Leith

My hon. Friend will be aware that concern about the situation in Burma is shared across the House and the country. In Edinburgh, for example, the city council has recently voted unanimously to offer the freedom of the city to Aung San Suu Kyi. In view of that widespread concern, is it not time for tough, effective sanctions to be imposed on the regime in Burma to make it improve its dreadful human rights record?

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

I am sure that Aung San Suu Kyi will appreciate the honour conferred on her by Edinburgh city council. There are already sanctions against the Burmese regime. We adhere to the common EU position, which was renewed on 26 April, that targets EU sanctions on members of the regime, not the people of Burma, who have already suffered enough under that awful regime. Those sanctions include a visa ban on leading members of the regime, an assets freeze and an arms embargo.

Photo of Richard Spring Richard Spring Shadow Minister, International Affairs

Echoing the point made by Mr. Lazarowicz, it is clear to all of us who take an interest in the tragic situation in Burma that the EU-UK sanctions against the regime are weaker than the measures that the USA has adopted to pressure the regime, and appear to be enforced with less vigour. What specific plans do the Government have to bring the EU-UK sanctions and their enforcement into line with those of the Americans?

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

The EU sanctions are reviewed annually, and were stiffened last April. We shall obviously review them in future in light of discussions with our EU colleagues. They are, however, EU sanctions, and we have to take our allies with us.

Photo of Vera Baird Vera Baird Labour, Redcar

My hon. Friend will know that the junta in Burma has been running a national convention from which the National League for DemocracyNLD—has been excluded. That convention has drafted a constitution that ensures military dominance, which is surely a further retrograde step. Most of Burma's trading is now conducted in euros, since the US has imposed financial sanctions. Is it not time to approach our European partners seriously about financial sanctions against that terrible regime?

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

We take the situation very seriously. As for the constitutional convention, we respect the decision of the National League for Democracy not to take part, because it is clearly a bogus exercise. It would make no sense at all for it to take part while its leaders are detained, its offices closed down and there is not a shred of democracy in Burma.