November 1, 2012

 

Burma Campaign UK today called on the British government to work for UN mandated international observers to be stationed in Rakhine (Arakan) State, Burma, following almost five months of violence, arrests, and restrictions on humanitarian assistance to Burma’s ethnic Rohingya minority.

Burma Campaign UK has written to British Foreign Secretary William Hague asking him to make the placement of UN mandated international observers the main British policy objective in response to what have become systematic attacks against the Rohingya.

The letter argues that the softly-softly approach taken by the British government and the rest of the international community has completely failed to persuade President Thein Sein of Burma to halt the attacks, allow unrestricted humanitarian access, and take steps to tackle the root causes of the crisis. Even when President Thein Sein requested international assistance in expelling all Rohingya from Burma, a policy that amounts to ethnic cleansing, the British government and others failed to publicly criticise Thein Sein. The lack of a robust international response has clearly been taken as a green light by Thein Sein for allowing attacks to continue.

The letter states: “Based on experience, it was our firm view that a robust initial response was needed in order to persuade the government of Burma that it needed to take firm and swift action to end the violence and prevent further violence … Burma Campaign UK continues to believe that the government of Burma will only take steps to halt the violence, allow unrestricted humanitarian access, and start to tackle the root causes of the violence, when it is placed under significant pressure to do so, and faces a credible threat to its interests if it fails act. This was a hard learned lesson for the British government in the past, and should not be forgotten now.

Firm and effective action at the start of the crisis in June could have helped prevent most of what has taken place in the months following the start of the crisis. Now that the crisis has been allowed to escalate, much more robust and high level intervention is required.”

“The British government seems to have forgotten the lessons it learnt over many years of dealing with the dictatorship in Burma, which is that softly-softly diplomacy does not work,” said Anna Roberts, Executive Director of Burma Campaign UK. “The British government used to take the lead defending human rights in Burma, there is concern that now it takes the lead in promoting trade. These allegations can most firmly be proved wrong by the British government once again taking the lead, this time on ensuring UN mandated international observers are placed on the ground in Rakhine State.”


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