I thank the Minister, but he still has the opportunity to make a statement in the new year, because this is an ongoing genocide and ethnic cleansing. I hope he will make such a statement, and at a time when more Members are present and can take part in this important debate. I was actually, however, referring to the last year, but I will come on to that shortly.
This is an extremely important debate, as I have said, but sadly the issue of the persecution of the Rohingya is not a new one; it has taken place for hundreds of years in that region, with violence flaring up on countless occasions. However, this persecution reached new heights last August, with some of the most brutal violence ever seen.
I want to reflect for a few moments on that violence, because the pictures and reports of violence against the Rohingya do not do justice to what they faced; they do not even begin to properly depict the horrors that innocent, men, women and children were subjected to. They faced murder, and their friends and relatives cut down by gunfire, knives, machetes and whatever else soldiers and thugs could lay their hands on. They faced pillage, their homes ransacked, their belongings plundered, and valuables seized. And they faced rape: women and girls—daughters, sisters, and wives—tied to trees and subjected to the most brutal treatment as relatives were forced to watch. Once they had finished inflicting their carnage, the soldiers moved on. Without remorse or reconsideration, they headed to the next village, but not before burning down the one they had just devastated. Homes that had stood for years, built by hand by those who lived in them, were reduced to nothing more than ash. These fires became the face of the violence carried out against the Rohingya, the pictures adorning the pages of the media as journalists were allowed no closer —Burma blocked off to them by a hostile Government fearful of outside independent reporting.