Burma: Human Rights

Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs written question – answered on 5th March 2007.

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Photo of Jim Dobbin Jim Dobbin Labour, Heywood and Middleton

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government have taken to raise the issue of human trafficking, particularly of women in Kachin State, with the régime in Burma; and what response has been received.

Photo of Ian McCartney Ian McCartney Minister of State (Trade & Investment), Department of Trade and Industry, Minister of State (Trade & Investment), Foreign & Commonwealth Office

We are aware of reports written by the Kachin Women's Association Thailand and Christian Solidarity Worldwide on this issue. On 24 January, I met representatives from the Chin and Kachin ethnic groups to discuss human rights violations, including human trafficking. We take every opportunity to raise human rights issues with the regime and remind them of their obligations to adhere to international human rights law.

I have raised the human rights situation regularly with the Burmese regime and other Governments in the region. On 15 June 2006, I called in the Burmese ambassador and on 5 July 2006 I wrote to the Burmese Foreign Minister, highlighting our many concerns, including issues such as human trafficking and the treatment of all Burma's ethnic groups. The Minister has not responded to my letter.

On 18 September 2006, I raised the serious human rights situation with Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) ambassadors, including the Burmese ambassador, and on 4 December 2006 with the ASEAN Secretary-General. I have also raised Burma with the Governments of China, India, Japan, Thailand and South Korea. I have discussed the human rights abuses taking place in Burma with Juan Méndez, the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. I discussed Burma in detail with Ibrahim Gambari, the UN Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, on 15 November 2006, following his visit to the country.

In addition, our ambassador in Rangoon regularly raises human rights with the regime, most recently when he met the Burmese Ministers for Planning and Immigration and the Burmese Deputy Foreign Minister on 5 January.

We fully support all action in the UN, including in the Security Council, which helps to promote reform and positive change in Burma. We therefore co-sponsored the UN Security Council Resolution on Burma, with the United States, calling on the regime to bring an end to all human rights violations in Burma. This was put to the vote on 12 January. Nine members of the Security Council voted for the Resolution. However the Resolution was not adopted, as two permanent members of the Security Council—China and Russia—voted against, as did South Africa.

Disappointing though this result was, it is important to note that all Security Council members agreed that there were serious issues of concern in Burma. This, and the positive votes from a majority of Council partners, reflected the international community's deep concern over the plight of Burma's people. We will continue to work within the UN to ensure that Burma remains on the UN Security Council agenda.

The UK also helped draft the Resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 22 December 2006 which expressed grave concern about human trafficking.

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