Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire:
I am making a joint statement with my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for International Development. Together we wish to inform the House that the Government is today publishing a summary of the UK’s activities in Burma.
The last three years in Burma have seen remarkable change. Burma is undertaking a complex transition: from an authoritarian military regime to democratic government; from a centrally directed to a market oriented economy; and from decades of conflict to peace in the border areas.
British engagement has grown rapidly since Burma embarked on its path of reform. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development (DFID), UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the British Council are all now established and active in Rangoon. We work closely with the Burmese authorities, Aung San Suu Kyi and the opposition, civil society, businesses and communities to encourage a stable, democratic and prosperous Burma and to urge Burma to play a constructive role in the international community.
My visit to Burma from 28 to 30 January 2014 was an opportunity to see the positive developments since my first trip in 2012, and to urge progress on the many challenges which remain. In meetings with government ministers, the military, Aung San Suu Kyi, ethnic and community leaders, I underlined the UK’s commitment to supporting further reform, not least to address the many outstanding human rights concerns. As I made clear in a speech at the British Council in Rangoon, 2014 will be a critical year for Burma - particularly for the prospects of constitutional reform and the peace process, both of which will be vital to Burma’s future. I also emphasised that Burma must take concerted action to tackle the humanitarian situation and the continuing inter-communal tensions, including those affecting the Rohingya community in Rakhine state in particular.
DFID has recently allocated an additional £5.8m of humanitarian funding to help meet the emergency needs of both communities in Rakhine State, bringing the UK’s total allocation for emergency humanitarian work there to £12m since 2012. In 2014, DFID has also allocated a further £8m of assistance to Burma’s peace process.
We know there is considerable parliamentary interest and expertise in Burma, given the deep and historic links between our two countries. Today, therefore, the Government publishes a summary of the UK’s activities in Burma, to set out as clearly as possible our main activities there. I will place a copy of this document in the Library of the House. It is also available on the Gov.uk website.
Our main activities in Burma focus on democracy and human rights, tackling inter-communal tensions, peace building, development, trade and investment, and wider international cooperation. They are carefully calibrated to ensure transparency, value for money and a balanced approach: our aim is to support reformers in Burma, while pressing for further progress on issues of continuing concern. The summary makes clear the strength and breadth of our commitment to this. The UK remains determined to play its part in Burma’s transition, to the benefit of all Burma’s people, its neighbours, and the wider international community.
Summary of UK’s activities in Burma
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