Nigel Evans has today questioned the Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific at the Foreign Office about the Burmese government’s failure to issue the International Development Committee with visas following their first report on the issue, which was published in January.
The Chair of the Committee, Labour MP Stephen Twigg, secured an urgent question in the chamber after PMQ’s on Wednesday to discuss the problem with Foreign Office Minister, Mark Field. It came to light that the Burmese State Chancellor, Aung San Suu Kyi, had ordered the visa refusal notice – a move that Mr Twigg attributes to the publication of the damning first report of the Rohingya crisis.
Within the report, it is highlighted that evidence was found to suggest “that sexual violence, including rape, remained a weapon of war used by the Burmese military” and expressed the committee’s grave concerns over Burma’s treatment of the Rohingya.
Since August 2017, around 750,000 have fled from Burma as a result of increased military action in Rakhine State. According to Doctors without borders, 9,000 Rohingya were killed between August and September last year.
Speaking from the Chamber, Mr Evans, a member of the international Development Committee said:
“I was very depressed to learn the news last night that the Visas hadn’t come through. I don’t know what the Burmese authorities think we’re going to do – just give up, shrug our shoulders and walk away? Well, we are not going to do that.
“I do think it is important to stress that the money that we do give is there for the people, and it doesn’t go to the military regime and it doesn’t go through the military regime.”
Since the Rohingya Crisis began the UK has provided £59 million in aid to refugees and recently provided £2 million towards vaccinations for Diptheria, a disease which has become a major source of struggle for the 600,000 refugees currently at Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh. The first round of the vaccinations ensured more than 350,000 children aged between six weeks and 15 years were protected.
Continuing, Mr Evans said:
“Can I ask you Mr Speaker and the Minister of state, to carry on with your work because the Rohingya problem isn’t going to go away. Yes, we are going to go to Bangladesh and see part of the problem, but we do want to go to Burma and we want to see exactly how our money is being spent. Can I implore you both to carry on and see if that can be done and done this year?”
On behalf of the Foreign Office, Mark Field responded:
“May I thank my honourable friend for Ribble Valley, who is absolutely right. We will do our best to continue to keep the profile of what is happening to Rohingya, what is happening to other minorities but also for those of us who have the interests of Burma and Burmese people at their hearts, to try and make sure that we continue to have a high profile of these issues in the months and years to come.”
The International Development Committee will travel to complete the second half of the trip on Saturday, visiting Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh to scrutinise the government’s aid spending in the area.