Parliamentarians slam British government indifference to human rights situation as the price to pay for increasing trade with Burma. Burma Times Desk Report: January 17, 2015
A debate that took place at the British parliament on Wednesday highlighted concern on abuses against the Rohingyas.
Rohingya activists, most notably the London based Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) welcomed the debate and thanked MP Jonathan Ashworth for introducing the debate and highlighting the desperate situation of Rohingya Muslims in Arakan.
Ashworth who frequently campaigns for the rights of Rohingyas, once again spoke out on the deplorable conditions of the community and detailed the persecution they face in Burma to this day. He said that they were disappointed as there had been no progress since the sectarian violence erupted two and a half years back.
In a challenge to the British government’s attitude to the ongoing crisis, Ashworth said, “Campaign groups, for example, have told me that there is a sense that British diplomats have begun to avoid using the term Rohingya in meetings with the Burmese Government.”
While stressing that he understood the pragmatism of increasing trade with Burma, Ashworth said, “However, many people are deeply concerned that we are trying to increase trade with Burma, for understandable economic reasons, yet we still seem to turn a blind eye to some of the human rights abuses. I would be grateful for the Minister’s comment on that.”
In response, Hugo Swire, the Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, expressed optimism that the situation of Burma has been improved by the current reformist government while at the same time voicing concerns for the Rohingya community.
Meanwhile rights groups based in the UK criticised Hugo Swire for ‘defending’ the Burmese regime.
In a press release, BROUK stated that Hugo Swire’s response was very disappointing. BROUK also said that Swire had refused to support an initiative to investigate human rights abuses in the region by the British government.
Meanwhile, Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK accused Swire of prioritising trade over human rights. “Does he have a private moment when his conscience makes him question what he does?”
Other MPs including Yasmin Qureshi and Valerie Vaz also questioned the minister on the situation. The minister while expressing sympathy with the Muslim community, defended the Burmese regime.