30 Oct UK foreign minister ‘sticks head in the sand’ over Myanmar rights: NGO

Written by Mizzima Published in Myanmar Read 2341 times
British government accused by NGO of putting trade before human rights in engagement with the Myanmar government. British Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire meets civilians displaced by the conflict in Kachin State during a visit to a camp housing internally displaced people at Wai-maw Township, near Myitkyina, on January 29, 2014. Photo: Hong Sar/Mizzima British government accused by NGO of putting trade before human rights in engagement with the Myanmar government. British Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire meets civilians displaced by the conflict in Kachin State during a visit to a camp housing internally displaced people at Wai-maw Township, near Myitkyina, on January 29, 2014. Photo: Hong Sar/Mizzima

The British Foreign Office has dropped human rights as a priority in Myanmar and instead now focuses on promoting trade, claims Burma Campaign UK.

Dubbing British Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire an “ostrich”, the rights NGO said the minister ducked recent questions in the British Parliament about the growing number of political prisoners in Myanmar in a push “to win business deals” with the government, according to the group’s press release October 29.

During Foreign Office questions in Parliament October 28, Sir Bob Russell MP asked Mr Swire how many additional political prisoners have been arrested this year. Rather than admit that the number of political prisoners has more than doubled, with hundreds more having been arrested and awaiting trial, the rights groups says Mr Swire bizarrely started talking about the release of 3,000 petty criminals.

The group says Mr Swire was “sticking his head in the sand, trying not to see or talk about human rights problems” in Myanmar.

"Hugo Swire is either trying to avoid talking about the number of political prisoners because it is embarrassing for his government, which has been praising the regime, or because he doesn't want to embarrass the Burmese government, as he is trying to win business deals with them," said Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK. "Either way, it is a shameful and unprincipled way to behave."

Mr Swire has previously tried to dismiss ongoing human rights violations in Myanmar, which includes ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity against the Rohingya minority, as 'bumps in the road', according the Burma Campaign UK.

The group claims the minister does not only try to avoid talking about human rights problems in Myanmar, he also tries to avoid hearing about them. He is the first minister with responsibility for Myanmar not to meet with Burma Campaign UK, the press release says.

Last modified on Thursday, 30 October 2014 14:34