[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 exactly right. China and India, particularly China, are hugely influential in discussions about the future of Burma. We must also consider the role of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which has not been mentioned so far in this debate. I shall come on to it in a second, but first would like to conclude my comments on US policy.

My fear is that the US has changed tack slightly because of other regional issues across Asia, North Korea and China, and that Burma risks becoming part of a subset of a wider set of geopolitical issues and therefore does not receive the specific and dedicated attention that it deserves. We need to hold on to it as a human rights and humanitarian issue. It is not part of a subset of a wider range of geopolitical questions. I have said before in the House that we need a much more intelligent approach to ASEAN. Two years ago, through the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, I was able to visit three ASEAN countries shortly after the ASEAN summit in which discussion of Burma featured heavily. It is clear that politicians and Governments in Asia do not have quite the same view of human and civil rights as we do, and that they do not see Burma in the same way that we do. It is important that while we engage with them and try to understand their position, they understand just how reprehensible the Burmese Government are in our view. If they want the EU to take ASEAN more seriously as a representative organisation for Asian economies, they need to understand that there are certain things that they need to fix within their club, Burma being one of them. I look forward to what the Minister and other speakers have to say.