Belfast Telegraph

UK threatens Burma with targeted sanctions over Rohingya violence

If the Burmese authorities do not heed the call of the international community over the Rohingya crisis, Britain will press for agreement on further EU measures which could include targeted sanctions, a Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister has said.

Asia and the Pacific minister Mark Field, who said he had returned from Burma last wee k for the second time in seven weeks, described the situation of the Rohingya people as "heart-breakingly appalling".

Addressing MPs during a Westminster Hall debate, Mr Field spoke about the "unspeakable sexual violence" suffered in the crisis, stating the Government had deployed two civilian experts to Bangladesh and could increase this.

He said: "If the Burmese authorities do not heed the call of the 6 November UNSC (United Nations Security Council) presidential statement we will be returning to EU partners to press for agreement on further measures which could include targeted sanctions."

He added: "We will be giving very serious consideration to trying to work out the appropriateness of such sanctions including to try and discover whether there is any property or companies that are owned by the military from Burma."

Up to 1,000 people he said were crossing the border into Bangladesh each day, a movement of people on a "colossal scale".

Mr Field said: "Last Thursday Bangladesh and Burma signed a memorandum of understanding on the return of refugees to Rakhine. We understand that a joint working group will be set up within three weeks with the aim of processing returns to commence within two months."

The Government, he said, would press for quick progress on the implementation of this agreement but "will be absolutely clear that any returns must be safe, voluntary and dignified and there must be appropriate international oversight".

He added it was in his view "too early" to even talk about voluntary returns at this stage.

He said: "The Foreign Office will remain steadfastly determined to ensure as far as we can the safe return of the Rohingya people, to ensure access for humanitarian aid and to hold to account those who are responsible for these harrowing crimes."

His comments came as Labour's Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham) who led the debate, recalled her visit to refugee camps as part of a cross party delegation, describing their "vast scale".

She said she was told the camps needed to house the new refugees were "equivalent to a city larger than Manchester, establishing almost overnight with no infrastructure, housing, water, sanitation".

Tory Philip Hollobone (Kettering) who also went on the trip, said the treatment of the Rohingya people was ethnic cleansing "pure and simple".

He said: "Returning stateless people to remain in a stateless state in their country of origin isn't good enough. These people require their nationhood given to them."

He added: "We need to stimulate further contributions from other countries, particularly Muslim countries, because we're dealing here with a Muslim population and there are lots of rich Muslim countries in the world who frankly should be stepping up to the plate rather more."

Mr Field responded: "This is a global humanitarian catastrophe...I think to try and frame it in an ethnic way would be the wrong way forward."

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