[Mr. Mike Hancock in the Chair] — Burma

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:49 am on 9th December 2009.

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Photo of Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb Opposition Whip (Commons) 9:49 am, 9th December 2009

The hon. Gentleman is entirely right. The convergence of difficult humanitarian conditions with gross human rights abuses is creating a dire set of circumstances for the oppressed ethnic groups.

Moving on to the subject of political engagement, in September, the US Administration announced the outcome of their review of US policy towards Burma, something which many of us were watching closely. A general welcome, which I support, has been given to the noises being made by the new US Administration, but I have some questions which I would like to put to the Minister. I have read in detail the transcript of the report by Kurt Campbell, an official from the US State Department, on why there has been a slight change of tack on the part of the Obama Administration in respect of Burma. What does the Minister think that it has shifted? Has there been any substantive shift at all on the part of the Burmese regime which has led the US Government to announce that they are willing to engage in some form of political dialogue? What gesture or shift has there been by the Burmese Government? As far as I can tell, there has been none.

For example, there has been no release of political prisoners or move in the direction of improving the conditions in which Aung San Suu Kyi is held, let alone any talk of her being released. So what have the Burmese Government done to deserve the announcement that the US Government are now willing to engage in dialogue with them? The risk surely is that their status as a reprehensible pariah is slightly reduced by this shift on the part of the Obama Administration, and unless there is real toughness on the part of the international community, particularly the US Government, in upholding sanctions and being absolutely firm on the conditions under which they will engage with the Burmese Government, the Burmese Government will achieve an important gain.