The Rohingya and the Myanmar Government Debate - Main Chamber
Today I took part in a debate, to again raise with the Government that more needs to be done to end the suffering of the Rohingya people at the hands of there own Government. More needs to be done to support those who have already fled the violence and are living in extremely difficult conditions on the Bangladesh boarder.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali) on securing this timely debate. With the world sitting and watching the events unfold in Burma with fear and trepidation, we need to bring the Rohingya people some hope—some hope that we can help them find a solution, some hope that one day they can return to what is left of their homes as real citizens of a country they are very much a part of.
Many of my colleagues have talked movingly about the systematic rape, murder, pillaging and burning of villages. Human Rights Watch says that as of this week almost 214 villages have been destroyed. We have heard accounts and seen videos of children and the elderly being burnt in their homes, of mass rapes and murders, and the forcing of the Rohingya people from their country.
The numbers, the methods and the actions show a clear and systematic intent, and it is essential that we continue to repeat UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s description of the Government operations in northern Rakhine state as
“a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
Is it acceptable for the Burmese Government to defend the actions of their military and militias while systematically carrying out the eradication and removal of a people, and for them to escape proper censure from the British Government?
Yesterday I welcomed a Bangladeshi human rights activist, Mokon Miah, to Bradford. He told me of the pressures that Bangladesh is facing in dealing with this crisis. The country faces its own challenges, as the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) succinctly outlined earlier. We need to support not only the Rohingya but Bangladesh and the work that it is doing.
Only two weeks ago, I was approached by a delegation from the British Rohingya community, whose UK headquarters are based in my constituency of Bradford West. They are currently in Bangladesh supporting refugees. My office has worked closely with the Rohingya diaspora community in Bradford, including individuals who have lost members of their direct family in violence in Burma. We must come together and find a way of ending this violence. We know that the distribution and routes of aid within Burma are still difficult and that the Government there are still blocking access, which is despicable. They have already taken so much; now they are leaving people to starve to death. What progress has been made on providing aid within the Rakhine state?
The persecution of the Rohingya is sadly nothing new, as many Members have said today, but maybe this is the time—if our Government can be stronger and if the institutions can show some strength and protect people globally—for us to find a way to help to change these people’s future. The eyes of the world are on the situation in Burma, and the generosity of the British people in giving to the relief effort demonstrates the global will to eradicate this form of evil from our world. The conditions are right to find a sustainable and long-term solution to the identity conflict that exists.
I plead with the Government to consider introducing targeted sanctions against the Burmese military and to look at their business interests in that area. Only then will we get the Burmese military—not just the leadership—to accept what is going on and change the status quo. Great Britain has the power to bring in targeted sanctions, and I ask the Minister to tell the House what is stopping us taking this action that is so needed. Hundreds of thousands of people are relying on us to act and to show them the support that they so desperately need.