As EU Foreign Ministers meet Asian counterparts at the ASEM meeting in Burma’s capital, Naypyidaw, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the British Parliament has published evidence submitted by Burma Campaign UK which details EU complicity in the current Rohingya Crisis.
The submission details repeated decisions by the European Union and its member states not to defend the rights of the Rohingya since repression against them increased in 2012. This failure helped contribute to the current crisis.
Failures detailed include lifting sanctions despite a condition for them being lifted was an improvement of the conditions for Rohingya, backing down and stopping use of the name Rohingya, strong support for President Thein Sein despite his request for assistance in deporting all Rohingya, proving funding and political support for the census which excluded the Rohingya, backing down on demands for reform of the 1982 Citizenship Law, and failing to act effectively to ensure an end to aid restrictions to displaced Rohingya living in prison camps.
The submission states:
“Every time new abuses were perpetrated against the Rohingya, the British government, along with the rest of the international community, failed to act. Not only did they fail to act, they relaxed pressure, and gave more support to military and government even as they perpetrated these abuses. Each time they did so, they sent a message that they were prepared to tolerate increased repression of the Rohingya as long as, as one diplomat described it, ‘the general direction of travel was good.’
“On each occasion a decision appears to have been made to set aside or overlook what was happening to the Rohingya in the context of positive reforms taking place and the ‘greater good’.
“The problem is that this was a constant pattern which was interpreted by successive Burmese governments and the military as weakness. Each time they took another step against the Rohingya and the international community backed down, they became emboldened to go further, and then further.
“This ‘greater good’ mindset continues even during the current crisis, with demands for action against the Burmese military and pressure on the Burmese government to stop the ethnic cleansing campaign and repression of the Rohingya being met with warnings about the fragile process of transition in Burma and the false bogeyman of a military coup. This is in effect an argument that acting against ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya might put at risk reforms in the country. Taken to its logical conclusion, it is an argument that the Rohingya are expendable for the greater good. It’s a continuation of the ‘greater good’ approach that has brought us to the current crisis.”
Since the new crisis began almost three months ago, the EU has not taken any practical action to try to prevent further atrocities. EU ministers have twice met and discussed the crisis and decided not to act. The only step taken is to suspend invitations to senior military officers to visit the EU.
Burma Campaign UK, along with Rohingya organisations and other human rights organisations, is calling on the EU to implement the following measures:
- Officially support the establishment of a UN mandated global arms embargo (The EU currently has its own arms embargo).
- Implement a visa ban on members of the Burmese military entering the EU.
- Ban the supply of any equipment to the military, not just arms.
- End all military training and co-operation programmes.
- Ban investment and business dealings with military owned companies.
- Support a referral of the situation in Burma to the International Criminal Court.
- Explore options for the application of universal jurisdiction relating to violations of international law in Burma.
- Review co-operation and support with the government of Burma in light of its denial of human rights violations and continuation of policies of repression against the Rohingya.
“EU Foreign Ministers must face the fact that their consistent failure to defend the rights of the Rohingya contributed to this crisis,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK. “It’s time the EU stopped treating the Rohingya as expendable for the so-called greater good of reforms which have taken place. Allowing continued impunity for human rights violations against the Rohingya and other ethnic groups has led to the worst human rights crisis in Burma in decades. When they return from Burma, EU ministers must agree targeted diplomatic, economic and legal sanctions against the military.”
The Burma Campaign UK submission to the British Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry into the crisis in Rakhine State is available at: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/foreign-affairs-committee/violence-in-rakhine-state/written/71861.pdf
Oral evidence by Burma Campaign UK Director Mark Farmaner to the British Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry into the crisis in Rakhine State is available at: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/foreign-affairs-committee/violence-in-rakhine-state/oral/71050.pdf
Written evidence submitted by Burma Campaign UK to the British Parliament International Development Committee into DFID’s work on Bangladesh, Burma and the Rohingya crisis is available at: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/international-development-committee/dfids-work-on-bangladesh-burma-and-the-rohingya-crisis/written/72971.pdf
Oral evidence by Burma Campaign UK Director Mark Farmaner to the British Parliament International Development Committee into DFID’s work on Bangladesh, Burma and the Rohingya crisis is available at: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/international-development-committee/dfids-work-on-bangladesh-burma-and-the-rohingya-crisis/oral/73764.pdf