Bishop of Coventry asks about human rights, development aid and sanctions towards the military in Burma

Between 18th-25th September 2017 the Bishop of Coventry, Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, received answers to five questions about Burma, on human rights violations, UK humanitarian aid and sanctions against the Burmese military:

The Lord Bishop of Coventry:

(i) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what humanitarian assistance they are providing to help alleviate the emerging humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State in Burma.

(ii) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to the suspension of military assistance, including training, for the Burmese army.

(iii) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to the introduction of financial and travel sanctions against senior Burmese military officials following the Burmese military’s recent offensive in Rakhine State.

(iv) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Burma to engage with existing United Nations Human Rights Council mechanisms and address reports of severe human rights violations in Rakhine State.

(v) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assistance and support they are providing the government of Burma and other parties in Burma to de-escalate the crisis in Rakhine State.


(i) Lord Bates: Since 2012, the UK has provided over £30 million in humanitarian assistance in Rakhine state, including food and sanitation for over 126,000 people. Our partners are delivering humanitarian assistance to more than 80,000 people in the non-conflict zones of Rakhine State. We continue to strongly urge the Burmese authorities to allow the access of aid, food and medication to all affected communities in Rakhine and we are working closely with them to support this. In northern Rakhine DFID partners are ready to provide emergency food assistance to 30,000 people and to treat more than 3,000 severely malnourished children and pregnant women once access is granted. DFID has also committed £10.9 million to meet the needs of displaced Rohingya and the host communities who support them in Bangladesh.


(ii) Earl Howe: In light of the ongoing violence in Burma’s Rakhine State and the growing humanitarian crisis it has caused, the UK Ministry of Defence has decided to suspend all training and educational courses provided to the Burmese military with immediate effect.


(iii) Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: ​EU trade, financial and targeted sanctions on Burma were lifted in April 2013, but EU Restrictive measures were retained and renewed this year with UK support. These measures are kept under review. Our focus for the moment is on providing humanitarian assistance, urging restraint by the security forces in Rakhine and a de-escalation of tensions.


(iv) Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: We remain concerned that human rights violations by the Burmese security forces following the violence in Rakhine State in October 2016 have not been fully investigated or addressed. That is why the UK co-sponsored a resolution at the Human Rights Council in March which set up a Fact Finding Mission to look into the human rights situation in Burma. We have urged the Government of Burma to cooperate fully with the Mission and its mandate and to enable the Mission to visit Burma.
Ministers have raised this issue with the Burmese authorities and our broader concerns about the recent outbreak in violence in Rakhine State. The Foreign Secretary has spoken on several occasions with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and has raised our concerns. Our ambassador in Rangoon has also raised our concerns with the Burmese authorities.

We support the Rakhine Advisory Commission, led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and welcome its report published on 24 August. Amongst its recommendations, the Commission noted that the Government of Burma must take full responsibility for all residents in Rakhine State and ensure access to services and humanitarian aid. We assess that the Commission’s recommendations provide the most realistic solution to address the longstanding and underlying issues in Rakhine. The UK stands ready to support Burma to implement the Commission’s report. The UK has raised Burma twice at the UN Security Council since the outbreak of the current violence, and secured the Council’s first press statement on Burma in eight years. The UK also raised its deep concern about reports of human rights violations at the 36th session of the UN Human Rights Council.


(v) Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The UK is one of the largest development and humanitarian donors to Burma and to Rakhine State. Since 2012, we have provided over £30 million in humanitarian assistance, including on food and sanitation for over 126,000 people.

The UK is also the largest bilateral donor supporting displaced Rohingya refugees and the vulnerable communities which host them in Bangladesh. The Department for International Development has allocated £20.9 million to respond to humanitarian needs between 2017 and 2022.

On August 30 and September 13, the UK raised the situation in Rakhine in the UN Security Council. We also discussed Burma at the September session of the UN Human Rights Council. Our immediate priority is to make sure food and medical assistance can be provided to displaced civilians from all communities. We urge the Government of Burma to address the growing humanitarian crisis in Rakhine and implement the recommendations of the Kofi Annan-led Rakhine Advisory Commission.


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