Mark Field, Minister for Asia at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has become the first foreign minister from outside the region to visit Rakhine state in Burma since the crisis there escalated with hundreds of thousands fleeing to Bangladesh. He held talks in Burma with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi to press for an urgent resolution to the crisis in Rakhine.
The meeting in Naypyidaw followed a visit by Mr Field to Rakhine State where he saw for himself the displacement of people caused by recent violence against the Royingya Muslims that has seen more than 400,000 fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh.
Mr Field made clear the violence needs to stop, with the security forces taking responsibility to protect all communities and the government allowing full humanitarian access for aid. He also emphasised Britain’s call for the Burmese government to implement the recommendations of Kofi Annan’s Rakhine Advisory Commission, to create the conditions in which Muslim, Buddhist and other communities can live along side each other peacefully and sustainably.
Mr Field also travelled to Rakhine and met the Rakhine Chief Minister Nyi Pu and State Executive Secretary U Tin Maung Swe, as well Rakhine-based UN agencies and international NGOs. He visited camps set up for Rohingya Muslims and other displaced communities who have remained in the country.
Last week Mr Field and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson took part in key talks on the Rakhine issue at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Mr Field said:
What we have seen in Rakhine in the past few weeks is an absolute and unacceptable tragedy. We need the violence to stop and all those who have fled to be able to return to their homes quickly and safely.
The UK has taken a central role driving a clear international response, including securing a United Nations Security Council statement.
During my meetings with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and others, I strongly emphasised the need for Burma to heed the Security Council’s call to end violence and allow humanitarian access to those in need of aid.
I have also seen for myself some of the communities which have been so badly damaged by what has happened here. Burma has taken great strides forward in recent years. But the ongoing violence and humanitarian crisis in Rakhine risks derailing that progress.
Mr Field and FCO-DFID Joint Minister Alistair Burt will tomorrow (Thursday 28) hold talks in Bangladesh with key Government officials and aid agencies to identify how best to provide lifesaving support to the large influx of refugees from Burma.
The UK has already announced an extra £30 million of funding to meet urgent humanitarian needs of those affected in Bangladesh and Burma, with the majority of the funding due to be spent in Bangladesh.
Notes to Editors:
A further £5.9 million was committed prior to this influx to meet the needs of the most vulnerable refugees and the host communities who support them.