Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs written question – answered on 20th March 2014.

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Photo of Stephen Twigg Stephen Twigg Shadow Minister (Justice) (Political and Constitutional Reform)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the human rights situation in Burma. [R]

Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

As I set out in my statement following the UN Special Rapporteur's report to the Human Rights Council on 17 March, we assess that the Burmese Government continues to make encouraging progress across a range of human rights issues. We have seen further releases of political prisoners, ceasefire agreements signed with 10 major ethnic armed groups, the easing of media restrictions and commitments in support of the advancement of women.

However, many challenges remain, notably in Rakhine and Kachin States. We urge the Government to address the underlying causes of these conflicts to find a long term solution that will bring peace and reconciliation. We are also concerned that individuals remain in prison whose status is disputed. We urge continued dialogue between the Government and civil society to resolve these remaining cases as a matter of urgency.

The situation in Rakhine State remains of the most serious concern, highlighted most recently by allegations of killings of Rohingya in Du Chee Yar Tan on 13 January 2014. We continue to urge the Burmese Government to deal with allegations of human rights abuses through a credible and transparent investigative and prosecutorial process that meets international standards. We remain particularly concerned about the intimidation of humanitarian workers and the recent constraints around, and threat of expulsion of, Médecins Sans Frontières from Rakhine State, which risks severely affecting the provision of health care in the state.

It has also been over 18 months since President Thein Sein committed to open an in-country Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights. An Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) would allow for more constructive relations between the international community and the Government on human rights. We call on the Government to publish a timeline for the opening of the Office, with a mandate that includes monitoring and technical assistance.

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