Press release

Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire visits Burma’s Rakhine State

Third visit to Burma formed part of a broader tour of South East Asia to promote ties with the United Kingdom.

Mr Swire spent Sunday and Monday in Rakhine State, where he met residents of Muslim and Buddhist IDP camps, community leaders and the state government, to assess the current political and humanitarian situation. On Tuesday he met senior government ministers in Naypyidaw.

Mr Swire’s trip formed part of a wider visit to Burma, where he met senior political figures, including opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. His discussions focused on the country’s preparations for elections due on 8 November and wider progress on democratic reform, including the peace process and constitutional change.

Speaking at the end of his visit, Mr Swire said:

“I am pleased to have been able to visit Burma as it prepares for historic elections in November. Burma has witnessed enormous change since it embarked on a process of reform in 2011. The elections will be a critical milestone in the transition process. My message throughout this visit has been that the elections must be credible and inclusive, and conducted with a respect for human rights. The United Kingdom is committed to supporting Burma’s transition to democracy and is providing support to the Union Election Commission and training local observers.

“I am also pleased that I was able to visit Rakhine State for the second time. I met members of the Rakhine and Rohingya communities and spoke personally with residents of both Muslim and Buddhist IDP camps. I heard first hand accounts of the difficulties most continue to face. During my visit I met the foreign aid community to hear their perspectives on long-term solutions to poverty and violence. I also raised my concerns directly with local government officials about a range of human rights issues, including the urgent need for freedom of movement.

“While I welcome the small improvements that have taken place in some areas in Rakhine State, much remains to be done. Access to healthcare and education remains insufficient for many people, in particular, in northern Rakhine State. I remain convinced that the only way to move towards a lasting solution to this dire situation is for there to be a clear, transparent and fair path to citizenship for all those who are eligible.

“The United Kingdom has provided over £18 million of support to Rakhine since 2012, including an additional £6.2m this year, and during my visit I was able to witness the difference we are making as one of the largest bilateral donors of humanitarian aid to Rakhine State.”

In Rakhine, Mr Swire also met the Rakhine Chief Minister, UN agencies, and the head monk at the Shwe Zedi monastery.

Mr Swire met Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon on Monday afternoon to discuss the upcoming elections. He also met representatives from the Burmese business community.

Mr Swire travelled to Naypyitaw on Tuesday to meet senior government ministers including U Aung Min and Finance Minister U Win Shein to discuss a range of issues including the elections and peace process.