July 24, 2012

Burma Campaign UK today called on British Foreign Secretary William Hague to end his silence on the current crisis in Burma and step up British diplomatic efforts to end the crisis. The current crisis has evolved into Burmese government led repression against the Rohingya.

Following communal violence in June, in which many Arakan and Rohingya people were displaced, there is a growing humanitarian and human rights crisis which is not receiving sufficient international attention, and it is highly likely that many lives are being lost as a result.

In the past few weeks, Burma Campaign UK has received the following reports:

· Burmese police, security forces and soldiers are raping, looting, torturing and arbitrarily killing Rohingya people.
· There have been mass arrests with Rohingya people kept in detention camps without trial, without food or medical services.
· Around 100,000 internally displaced people are in various locations, the vast majority without receiving proper assistance because they are ethnic Rohingya. Aid is mostly being blocked by the government, or where allowed, Rohingya people have been excluded.
· Unknown thousands of people fled to Bangladesh, where they are getting no aid or protection, while thousands more are turned back by the government of Bangladesh, literally at gunpoint, in violation of international law.
· Local authorities are refusing to allow many Rohingya people back to some villages, shops and homes in a policy that appears designed to ‘cleanse’ these areas of Rohingya people.
· The President of Burma has proposed a policy that amounts to ethnic cleansing, asking the United Nations to arrange for Rohingya people to be removed from Burma and sent to third countries.

“This is an incredibly serious situation and it continues to deteriorate at a very fast rate,” said Anna Roberts, Executive Director of Burma Campaign UK. “There has not been anything like the international response that would be expected for a crisis on this scale. Action needs to be taken now to ensure aid can be delivered, arrests and human rights abuses stop, and people are allowed to return safely to their homes.”

Britain used to take the lead in mobilising the international community to respond to human rights and humanitarian crises in Burma, but now seems to focus more on positive news with ministers rarely commenting on on-going serious human rights violations. This no doubt helped to play a role in emboldening President Thein Sein to the degree where he felt he could propose rounding up and expelling all Rohingya people from the country.

Without immediate strong international action, the situation will continue to deteriorate.

“The Foreign Secretary should be using every diplomatic and legal tool at his disposal to help bring an end to the current crisis, mobilising the international community and condemning proposals for ethnic cleansing,” said Anna Roberts. “Hague should withdraw the invitation to President Thein Sein to visit the UK in order to bring home to him the seriousness of the current situation and the fact that proposing ethnic cleansing is completely unacceptable.”

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