News & press releases

Letter to Foreign Secretary: Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar

Medi 7, 2017

On Wednesday 6th September, I was one of the 157 MPs who signed a letter addressed to the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, demanding that the government take action to stop the recent escalation of violence targeted towards Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

Rushanara Ali MP, Co-Chair of the APPG for Democracy in Burma, coordinated the action after the United Nations said 270,000 Rohingya Muslims had crossed into neighbouring Bangladesh in the past two weeks. The exodus began after Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts in Burma, prompting the military to respond with “clearance operations” to root out fighters hiding in villages in Rakhine state, resulting in accusations of ethnic cleansing.

In the letter to Mr Johnson we said: “Based on reports from the United Nations, human rights organisations and Rohingya organisations, we are witnessing human rights violations on an extreme scale, even by the standards of Myanmar’s (Burma’s) history.

“Estimates of people killed range from official figures of hundreds dead, to estimates by reliable Rohingya organisations of between 2,000 to 3,000 killed.

“Eye witnesses describe civilians being shot indiscriminately, people forced to lie down in rows and then shot in the back of the head, beheadings, rape, rounding people up into buildings which are then set fire to, and deliberate shooting of children.

“At the same time (militant group) ARSA (Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army) appears to have been targeting ethnic Rakhine, the Mro community and people of other races and religions, exacerbating communal tensions and violence.”

Therefore, we believe that there are twin priorities for the Foreign Secretary; to do whatever we can to halt the military offensive against Rohingya civilians, and address the urgent humanitarian needs. However, it is essential that additional funding is provided to meet the humanitarian needs, rather than coming from the existing budget to Myanmar, as longer term solutions cannot be properly addressed if the current crisis continues.

In addition, we urge the Foreign Secretary to put pressure on military commander in chief Min Aun Hlaing and state that the Government “must review its current approach towards the Burmese military”.

The scale of the human rights and humanitarian crisis unfolding in Myanmar is unprecedented in its recent history, and requires the attention of the British Government at the highest level. Therefore, we hope that the government will show global leadership in supporting the people of Myanmar, and we await Foreign Sectary, Boris Johnson’s response.