Burma Campaign UK today called on the British government to resume its past leadership on Burma within the European Union, and push for practical steps from the European Union to pressure Min Aung Hlaing, head of the Burmese military, to halt his ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya.
Until 2012, the British government led the EU in supporting human rights and democracy in Burma. In 2012, the same year that violence against the Rohingya dramatically escalated, the UK dropped human rights as a priority in Burma, instead focussing on trade.
Since the latest Rohingya crisis began on August 25th, when Min Aung Hlaing used attacks on police stations by Rohingya militants as a pretext for launching a systematic ethnic cleansing campaign, the European Union has been missing in action.
The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini has issued two statements on the Rakhine Crisis on 6th September and 11th September, the first one almost two weeks after the crisis began, both without even mentioning the Rohingya by name. Denial of Rohingya ethnic identity is a key part of the justification within Burma for driving Rohingya out of Burma.
In November last year, even as Min Aung Hlaing’s soldiers were carrying out a similar but smaller scale military offensive against the Rohingya, one which the UN has said could constitute crimes against humanity, the EU invited Min Aung Hlaing to address a prestigious meeting of EU military heads, and discussed training and co-operation between the Burmese military and European military forces.
To date, almost a month after the ethnic cleansing campaign began, the EU has still not taken any practical action in response.
The British government must now build support within the EU for practical pressure targeting Min Aung Hlaing. This should include:
- EU support for a UN mandated global arms embargo.
- Visa bans on military personnel, with exceptions made only for meetings specifically on human rights.
- Expanding the existing arms embargo to ban European companies from supplying any kind of equipment to the military.
- Banning new investment in and business relationships with military owned companies and members of the military and their families.
- All European countries ending any form of training and co-operation with the military in Burma.
The European Union must also make it clear to Aung San Suu Kyi and the government of Burma that future cooperation and support is conditional on an end to the policy of lying about the situation and denying human rights violations are taking place, ending policies oppressing the Rohingya, and lifting all restrictions on humanitarian aid to Rohingya in Rakhine State.
“The soft approach of the European Union on the Rohingya is one of the factors which has encouraged Min Aung Hlaing to believe he can get away with ethnic cleansing,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK. “In the absence of any leadership on this issue within the External Action Service, the British government must now take the lead pushing for practical action by the EU.”
Link to EEAS Statements:
Min Aung Hlaing statement on offering of military training and co-operation with EU: