Yesterday (Monday 22nd April) was a significant and sad day for Burma. It provided a striking example of the growing disconnect between the reality on the ground in Burma, and the policies of the international community, including British government policy.
The day started with the BBC releasing a shocking video of the anti-Muslim attacks which took place in the Burmese town of Meiktila last month. Police stood by doing nothing as Muslims were beaten and burned, and shops and homes destroyed. You can view the video here.
Human Rights Watch then published a new report, ‘All You Can Do Is Pray’, which provided evidence of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity against the ethnic Rohingya Muslim minority in Burma. The report included evidence of Burmese authorities involvement in crimes against humanity. You can read the report here.
Later the same day European Union Foreign Ministers met and decided to lift all sanctions against Burma except the arms embargo. This is despite multiple violations of international law still taking place, and the fact that the EU’s own benchmarks for improvements in human rights have not been met.
Our press release, which includes details on how those benchmarks have not been, met is here.
The Democratic Voice of Burma also published an article by the Director of Burma Campaign UK on how the EU is ignoring human rights, available here.
Perhaps just as bad as the lifting of sanctions was the statement from the EU, which is a significant misrepresentation of what is taking place in Burma, downplaying and ignoring problems, and talking up small positives. It’s a rose-tinted view of Burma which ignores the facts and the serious human rights abuses still taking place. You can read it here.
In an editorial, the Daily Telegraph said that it was ‘deeply embarrassing’ that British Foreign Secretary William Hague agreed to the lifting of sanctions. The Telegraph warned that the EU’s credibility is damaged by lifting sanctions despite human rights benchmarks not being met, and that the EU is now relying of the regime's goodwill to make further reforms. You can view the editorial here.
A key factor in the shameful approach by the EU is the fact that Foreign Secretary William Hague has abandoned the former policy of putting human rights first in making Burma policy. Without Britain’s strong voice for human rights within the EU, countries like Germany, which always wanted to prioritise trade, get their own way. Worse, the British government now seems to be trying to compete with Germany in downplaying human rights and promoting trade.
Sanctions are gone now, but the human rights abuses remain. Burma Campaign UK will campaign to persuade the British government to put human rights first in its Burma policy. We will be in touch with you soon with campaign actions. The people of Burma still need our support, now more than ever. We will keep campaigning for human rights for all the people of Burma.
Thank you for your support.
Burma Campaign UK