Speech

Foreign Office Minister Rt Hon Hugo Swire MP: "Britain believes in Burma and the Burmese people".

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Foreign Office Minister Rt Hon Hugo Swire MP led a trade mission to Burma earlier this week.

The Rt Hon Hugo Swire

First of all I would like to thank the people of this beautiful country for the very warm welcome I have received here. I have been touched by their remarkable kindness and courtesy.

In the past few days I have met leading ministers, civil society and business leaders who have been eager to share with me their aspirations for the future.

With the Government I discussed a full range of issues. I welcomed their efforts on ethnic reconciliation, but registered my serious concerns about the ongoing situation in Kachin urging the government to take all necessary measures to stabilise conditions there and insure the safety of civilians. We continue to urge both sides to bring an end to the conflict. I raised my serious concerns about the situation in Rakhine State, which I visited this morning, and where thousands of people have displaced by violent unrest.

Earlier this afternoon I had the great honour to meet Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and spoke to her about the many challenges facing Burma, not least the ongoing conflict in Rakhine State.

I share Daw Suu’s concern about the situation having witnessed for myself the seriousness of the humanitarian situation. Conditions remain extremely worrying. I have visited the IDP camps and seen the thousands of people, crowded into tents, with little food or sanitation, and reliant on aid. It left me in no doubt that without urgent action this tragedy will continue to deepen for all concerned. We spoke about the work of her Parliamentary committee and its recent urging for greater security, humanitarian aid, accountability and respect for human rights.

If I can deliver one message on behalf of the people I met at these camps it is that we need to see determination on all sides to bring an end to this conflict and reach a meaningful political solution.

The British Government is already playing its part including working with trusted NGOs to deliver emergency water, sanitation and healthcare to over 58,000 people from both communities. While we are presently the single largest aid provider, much more needs to be done and we are working to rally international action.

In terms of this country’s broader progress, what everyone wants to see here is rapid development and consolidation of democracy. What does that mean? It means that the country operates under the rule of law with strengthened democratic institutions and with respect for human rights; it means greater trade and prosperity so that people are employed; and it means utilities and services from roads to railways, from accessible credit to clean water, and reliable electricity.

To that end I led a trade mission here focusing on the power sector with the aim of helping this country meet its ambition of a tenfold increase in its energy generation over the next decade. This is the sort of responsible investment we need to see here. Modern energy infrastructure, developed we hope with British expertise, will mean that everyone will have access to electricity in their homes and that manufacturers will be able to invest with confidence and produce things people want to buy. I welcomed the government’s commitment to responsible investment.

I want to finish on a positive note. This is a beautiful country with lofty ambitions.

Britain believes in Burma and the Burmese people. The best way we can help is not by ignoring its problems but by working together to tackle them. If we can do that then everyone will be able to enjoy the benefits of a free, developed, and prosperous nation.

Published 14 December 2012