Burma: Political Prisoners

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

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Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department has taken to seek to secure the release of political prisoners in Burma in the last 12 months.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the government of Burma on the detention of opposition parliamentarians.

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

Over the last 12 months my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and other Ministers have raised the need for the immediate release of all political prisoners in Burma on many occasions with key countries in the region including China, India, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia. Our ambassador in Rangoon has also repeatedly raised the issue with ministers in the military Government. In October 2007 we helped to secure unprecedented UN Security Council action on Burma, which included a clear demand for the early release of political prisoners. This demand was reaffirmed by the UN Security Council in May under UK chairmanship. We continue to support the UN Secretary-General's efforts to work on the release of prisoners. The EU has also made its position clear, and with strong UK support, strengthened sanctions against the regime in response to the brutal crackdown on peaceful protests last autumn, when many political activists were detained. Our embassy in Rangoon continues to inquire about specific cases with political prisoner support networks and those non-governmental organisations concerned with prisoner welfare.

While we welcome the release during September of a small number of political prisoners, it is important to remember that arbitrary arrests continue, and more than 2,000 political prisoners remain in detention.

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