Burma: Politics and Government

Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs written question – answered on 22nd October 2008.

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Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the political and humanitarian situation in Burma; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Bill Rammell Bill Rammell Minister of State, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

The military regime is determined to maintain its hold on power regardless of the cost and suffering of the people of Burma. The junta's 'Roadmap to disciplined democracy', including a new constitution and elections planned for 2010, is designed to entrench military rule behind a facade of civilian government. The process excludes the opposition and meaningful participation by the ethnic groups. Fundamental rights are consistently ignored. Over 2,000 political prisoners remain in detention, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and other pro-democracy leaders. Ethnic minority groups have been methodically marginalised. Against this backdrop, we will continue to do all we can to generate international pressure for a peaceful transition to democracy and respect for human rights in Burma. In particular, we will continue to give our full support to the UN Secretary-General and his efforts to break the current deadlock.

The humanitarian situation is of serious concern across the country. One third of the country's population lives on less than one third of a dollar a day, 10 per cent. do not have enough to eat, half of Burma's 20 million children do not complete primary school, and 70 per cent. of the population is at risk from malaria. The protests of August and September 2007 were sparked by this ever increasing poverty, and people's deep frustration with the economic and political failures of the Burmese regime. Relief aid for those affected by Cyclone Nargis, which struck Burma in May, is now getting through with greater co-operation from the Burmese regime than it showed in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. However, as many as 300,000 people remain highly vulnerable. The UK is committed to supporting the post-Cyclone Nargis relief effort and remains the biggest bilateral donor, contributing £45 million. UK aid for Cyclone Nargis is delivered through the UN, Red Cross and international and local non-governmental organisations to ensure that relief supplies are properly distributed to cyclone victims and do not benefit the regime.

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