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Foreign and Commonwealth Office written question – answered on 24th September 2015.

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Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 15 September (HL Deb, col 1741), what assistance they have given to the Karen and other ethnic minorities in Burma in overcoming obstacles to a comprehensive national ceasefire, particularly in regard to (1) the placing of weapons beyond use, (2) the restitution of land, and (3) the extension of the franchise to Burmese refugees living in refugee camps on the border between Burma and Thailand.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State

We welcome the continuing talks between the Burmese government and ethnic armed groups to agree a National Ceasefire Agreement. Throughout the negotiations the UK has funded specialists to provide expert advice in support of the peacemaking dialogue in Burma to both sides of the conflict. This includes support to the National Ceasefire Coordination Team, the ethnic groups’ negotiation team of which Karen groups are a part. We are also a member of the Peace Donor Support Group which is directly supporting work to move from ceasefire agreements to political dialogue with all of Burma’s ethnic groups.

The signing of a ceasefire would only be the start of a wider peace process. The next stage, as envisaged by the draft National Ceasefire Agreement, is a National Political Dialogue. It is at this stage that issues such as decommissioning of weapons, land restitution and resettlement of internally displaced people will be discussed. To date we have not been asked to assist with any of these issues, and we would only do so with the consent of both sides. However, as I highlighted in the debate to which the noble Lord refers, the UK has earmarked £3million in flexible funding to support such activities in support of the continuing peace process through the multi-donor Peace Support Fund, with the potential to increase this to £5million.

We have raised with the Burmese authorities the issue of extending voting to internally displaced people. Most recently our Ambassador lobbied the head of the Union Election Commission on the inclusion of internally displaced people in Burma on the voter lists.

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