Rohingya Refugee Crisis

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:45 pm on 20th December 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 2:45 pm, 20th December 2018

The hon. Lady is so right. This is the frustration we all have, and this is where we are. We have the frustration that the Burmese army is emboldened: because it has got away with it, it can get away with it again. I think it is time that we draw a line and make it accountable. The United Nations has been documenting these crimes for decades. There is another example: it just goes on and on. It is really time to draw a line and to tell these people, who think they are judge and executioner and that they can do whatever they want, that, no, they cannot. They will be held accountable for it some day.

A detailed assessment in 2016 stated that what may amount to war crimes were being committed in Kachin state and Shan state. The independent international fact-finding mission has concluded that crimes against humanity are being perpetrated in Kachin and Shan states. The judicial system has systematically failed to hold accountable perpetrators of abuses such as torture, forced labour, systematic rape and sexual violence.

According to Rev. Samson, by September 2018, 52 churches had been closed down and 92 pastors had been arrested. Further, in October 2018, the United Wa State Army—the UWSA—expelled a group of eight catholic clergy and lay people from the Wa region in Burma’s Shan state. The UWSA has now said that all churches built after 1992 were constructed illegally and will be destroyed. It has forbidden the construction of any new churches, and five churches are reported to have been destroyed.

This demands action, and I believe that we must take it. I ask the Minister again to give serious consideration to actively ensuring that engagement with Burma on human rights and freedom of religion or belief does not focus entirely, with respect, on the plight of the Rohingya to the exclusion of the Kachin and Shan people or of the Muslims, the Christians and other minorities throughout the country. Nobody is safe from the Burmese army; that is a fact. Will he also ensure that freedom of religion or belief is recognised as a priority for all the people of Burma and that we press for international accountability for the human rights violations that have been committed in the Kachin and Shan states?

At the very least, we have a responsibility to encourage the Burmese Government to repeal all legislation that discriminates against religious and ethnic minorities, including laws that limit religious conversion and interfaith marriage. In particular, the Burmese Government should change or repeal the 1982 citizenship law to allow the Rohingya full citizenship rights. That is the least that we can do for them and the least we can expect. We also need to do many other things, and we must use any diplomatic pressure that we have available. In the medium to long term, there must be investment to support initiatives to address racial and religious hatred in Burma. Dr Allin-Khan clearly illustrated that point. We need to support the voices of peace and moderation, and encourage a reconciliation process.

I am conscious of the time, Madam Deputy Speaker, so I shall conclude by pressing the Minister to take this case to heart. I have the greatest faith in him as a person, and also in his position as a Minister, as to how he will respond. Minister, every one of us is burdened with this—