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 if the Government will discuss violations of religious freedom in Burma with the UN's Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion and Belief.

Photo of Kim Howells Kim Howells Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office

The Government have not yet had the opportunity to discuss religious freedom in Burma with the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion and Belief. However, I have raised the human rights situation regularly with the Burmese regime and other Governments in the region. On 16 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 the freedom to express religious belief. 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 Mendez, the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. I discussed Burma in detail with Ibrahim Gambari, the United Nations Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, on 15 November 2006, following his visit to the country. On 24 January, I met representatives from the Burmese Chin and Kachin ethnic groups to discuss the many difficulties faced by their respective communities, including violations of their religious freedoms.

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 shall continue, bilaterally and with international partners, to urge the Burmese regime to pursue laws and practices which foster tolerance and mutual respect and protect religious minorities from persecution and discrimination.

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