Burma

Foreign and Commonwealth Office written question – answered on 15th January 2015.

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Photo of Simon Kirby Simon Kirby Conservative, Brighton, Kemptown

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what recent assessment he has made of progress by Burma towards establishing democracy; and if he will make a statement.

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

We recognise the significant steps towards democratic reform that the government of Burma has taken over the past two years. This includes releasing hundreds of political prisoners and discharging hundreds of child soldiers. It has also included lifting of restrictions on the media, which has opened the space for the growth of a vibrant civil society.

At the same time, we recognise much more needs to be done, and that in some areas progress has declined. We remain deeply concerned about the recent intimidation, detention and sentencing of reporters and political activists, the appalling situation of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State, and about ongoing conflict in ethnic areas and associated human rights abuses, including sexual violence. All of our concerns are thoroughly documented in our Annual Report on Human Rights, and the quarterly updates to them. I personally raise our concerns regularly with the government of Burma.

Burma’s elections, scheduled for October or November this year, will be a critically important test of the government’s commitment to see the reforms through to their conclusion. It is vital for Burma’s future development that these are inclusive and credible. The Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr Cameron) made this point to President Thein Sein at the Group of Twenty (G20) summit in Brisbane in November.

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