Human Rights: Burma

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:44 pm on 18th January 2017.

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Photo of Alok Sharma Alok Sharma The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs 12:44 pm, 18th January 2017

I agree with my hon. Friend, and of course, we are deeply concerned about what is happening in Rakhine state. Yes, it is difficult to get access to verify the facts but, like him, we are extremely concerned about the human rights violations that have been reported and, of course, about the security response.

My hon. Friend raised a number of questions. He asked about UK support for an international commission —I assume a UN-type commission. A UN-led commission of inquiry can be established in one of three ways: by the Secretary-General, by the Security Council or by the Human Rights Council. Establishing an inquiry in that way would require broad international support, which we assess does not exist in the current international environment.

My hon. Friend also asked about the visit of Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur, which I very much welcome. I am aware that she is currently in Burma, and for many years we have supported the annual resolution of the Human Rights Council that mandates her role. We hope that the authorities in Burma will give her full and unimpeded access so that she can conduct a thorough assessment, including of Rakhine. Like my hon. Friend, I look forward to reading her report.

My hon. Friend talked about the overall peace process and particularly about the aid that we are providing. I can confirm that we are providing aid not just in Rakhine but to the refugees in Bangladesh. In our meetings I have urged the Bangladeshi Government not to return refugees to a situation in which they would face harm.

Finally, my hon. Friend made a plea in relation to the Foreign Secretary’s visit. I assure him that the Foreign Secretary will strongly put the case on humanitarian issues from a UK perspective. As far as I am aware, he intends to meet Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as the chief of the military.