Suu Kyi needs support to stabilise Rohingya issue, says Britain’s minister for Asia
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Suu Kyi needs support to stabilise Rohingya issue, says Britain’s minister for Asia

Many MPs in the House of Commons expressed dismay and frustration over Suu Kyi’s inaction and silence.

world Updated: Sep 06, 2017 21:15 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
House of Commons,Myanmar state counsellor Aung Saan Suu Kyi,Rohingya
Myanmar state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi at a news conference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Naypyitaw on September 6, 2017.(Reuters)

As MPs clamoured in the House of Commons for words and action from Myanmar state counsellor Aung Saan Suu Kyi on the Rohingya issue, Britain said she needed support to stabilise the country’s situation as her removal would result in a “calamity”.

Many lawmakers expressed dismay and frustration over Suu Kyi’s inaction and silence on the issue, but minister for Asia Mark Field said underlying reasons also needed to be addressed.

London continues to use the name “Burma” for the country instead of the official “Myanmar”, as reflected in its use by the minister in the debate which was initiated by Yasmin Qureshi (Labour) on Tuesday.

Field said: “Imagine the situation if there were another coup d’état and Aung San Suu Kyi was removed from the scene and we went back to fully fledged military rule. That would be a calamitous outcome for the Burmese people.

“We need to do all that we can to support the moves, slow as they are, towards some sort of democracy as we would understand it in Burma…We must work towards getting Burma on the road to democracy as much as possible rather than trading one off against the other.”

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Labour) raised the issue of what he called “sustained discrimination against, and killing of, Rohingya Muslims” over the years. As the de facto leader of Myanmar, he said Suu Kyi should respect the rights of all, especially minorities.

“Extraordinary respect and honour were accorded to her by our Parliament for her own long struggle for democracy. Has the minister reminded her of this, and of the urgent need to stop the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in her country?” he asked.

Liz McInnes (Labour) added: “I am sure the minister will share the deep disappointment of many members of this House at the failure of Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Myanmar’s civilian government, to speak out more forcefully against human rights abuses in Rakhine.”

Liberal Democrats MP Jo Swinson said it was “incongruous and incomprehensible” that Suu Kyi — for so long a beacon for human rights — had not stepped in to intervene in the face of a military crackdown that reportedly led to the burning of 17 villages and left 250,000 people without access to food.

Acknowledging the sense of dismay over Suu Kyi, Field said “sectarian complexities of the Burmese society” along with the lack of democracy for over five decades played an important role in the concerns.

He said: “As far as this matter is concerned, we have made it very clear that we feel that Aung San Suu Kyi and her government need to step up to the plate. We are not in any way forgiving or understanding of the terrible violence and its impact.

“It is worth pointing out that the entrenched security forces, including the army, police and border guard force, are responsible for the security operations that are currently under way in Rakhine state. We have made that absolutely clear.

“We will support Burma’s ongoing transition from military dictatorship to a civilian-led democracy. This is very much an ongoing process, led by the democratically elected Aung San Suu Kyi.”

First Published: Sep 06, 2017 21:15 IST