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.”
Please print and send this letter to William Hague MP, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
William Hague MP, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
Dear Foreign Secretary
I am writing regarding the growing crisis in Rakhine State, Burma, and to ask that the British government work to ensure that UN mandated international observers are placed on the ground in Rakhine State.
It is now almost five months since violence began in Rakhine State, Burma. The violence can no longer be described as simply communal. It has become systematic violence targeting the Rohingya ethnic minority. Hundreds of Rohingya have reportedly been killed, and more than one hundred thousand displaced. What is happening in practice amounts to areas being ethnically cleansed of Rohingya people.
These attacks are taking place with a mixture of tacit and overt support from the military-backed government in Burma.
The British government failed to take the lead in mobilising a robust international response when violence began. 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. Instead the government adopted a policy of soft private diplomacy. With attacks increasing and aid restrictions still in place, it is clear this approach has failed, and a much more robust approach must be adopted.
The government of Burma is clearly unwilling to stop the violence and take action against those inciting violence. International observers would be able to collect accurate information about what is taking place and their presence may help prevent violence.
The British government used to take the lead defending human rights in Burma, but there is concern that now it only takes the lead in promoting trade. I urge you to demonstrate that Britain puts human rights before trade interests in Burma, and supports international observers in Rakhine State, a measure that could help save lives.