On the 12th January 2017 Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead held a debate about the treatment of the Rohingya Muslim people in Burma. The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, pressed the Government to encourage the Burmese authorities to move towards full citizenship and rights for the Rohingya community, and to allow access for independent monitors to northern Rakhine.
“People pushed to desperation and anger, with no hope for the future, are more likely to embrace extremist responses, however counterproductive”.
The systematic persecution of the Rohingya people by the Burmese Government, most obviously manifested in the denial of citizenship to Rohingya Muslims, has created a fertile recruiting ground for militants. It is a simple human truth that people who have no say in their future and no means to participate in the democratic life of their country are liable to resort to extremism in order to achieve those means.
It would be helpful to know what Her Majesty’s Government are doing to push for independent monitors to be granted access to northern Rakhine and what can be done to encourage the Burmese Government to move towards full citizenship and rights for the Rohingya community in the medium term. Without cause for hope that the situation can and will improve through peaceful, democratic means, more angry young people will turn to extremism and militancy and the cycle of violence will only deepen.
Baroness Goldie (Con, Minister) [extract]: …The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans reflected with great sensitivity and wisdom on the delicate political balance in Burma. That is at the heart of how the international community responds. This is a nascent democracy, and though others may have their individual views on how that democracy is functioning, in my opinion it is immeasurably better than the regime that has ruled Burma for decades. We have to be very careful and recognise that under international law Burma is an independent state. The international community wants to support, provide help where it can or, indeed, challenge when events seem to be taking place that raise huge concerns, but at the same time we must be respectful of the status of that embryonic and very young democracy. Nevertheless, Her Majesty’s Government are pressing for openness and respect for human rights.