By Manny Maung
Junuary 30, 2014
Violence targeting Muslims and the escalating humanitarian situation in Rakhine State could gravely undermine Myanmar’s reform process, Britain’s Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire warned in Yangon on January 30.
Mr Swire expressed disappointment at the government’s apparent reluctance to address inter-communal violence.
“I have been appalled to hear of further tragic deaths this month in northern Rakhine and we have called for an investigation into this,” Mr Swire said.
“On the humanitarian front, the rise of intimidation and threats towards UN and international staff attempting to deliver life-saving food and medical supplies … is utterly unacceptable and actually quite shocking,” he said.
Mr Swire said other violent incidents targeting Muslims throughout the country raised serious questions about religious tolerance and the rule of law.
“The violent actions and aggressive rhetoric of a small minority of extremists is harming the reputation of this country,” he said in a speech given at the British Council on Strand Road after a last-minute change of venue.
Mr Swire, who had been earlier scheduled to speak at Yangon University, said the change of venue was out of his control.
“I hope one day that people like me will be able to give speeches there, at the university, that provoke and give cause for debate,” he said.
Mr Swire also addressed the constitutional reform issue, saying that all eyes would be on the joint parliament committee appointed to consider amendments to the constitution, which is due to submit its report to the Pyindaungsu Hluttaw on January 31.
He urged President U Thein Sein to follow up on his comment earlier this year, that “all citizens should have the right to run for president”, and to make changes to Section 59(f) which would allow Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to be eligible for the presidency.
Mr Swire, who was on his second visit to Myanmar since being appointed Foreign Office Minister in 2012, travelled to Kachin State on January 29 to visit a camp for civilians displaced by fighting there.
His itinerary has also included meetings with National League for Democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and government officials.