Today I hosted an important webinar, in collaboration with Amnesty International, on the current humanitarian crisis facing Myanmar.
Myanmar’s military launched a coup earlier this year, claiming to have taken control of the Government, detaining civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the ruling party. This comes after the election in November which would have given Suu Kyi another five years in office.
The coup undermines democracy, rule of law and political freedoms in an already fragile political system. The violent clashes between peaceful protesters and the Junta are particularly concerning and have resulted in hundreds of deaths. My own constituent, Dr Thomas Lamb, saw first-hand the brutalities of the military and faced persecution when attempting to treat injured civilians.
The events highlight the role of China, Myanmar’s largest trading partner, which stood by the previous military dictatorship and has not condemned this coup. There is no doubt over China’s immense power, but with great power comes great responsibility. The persecution of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang for example is completely deplorable. The UK therefore must work with democracies in Asia to offer a regional alternative to China’s influence.
The events also highlight the importance of tackling human rights abuses and genocide abroad. The UK should introduce targeted Magnitsky sanctions on the individuals involved, the businesses that finance and back the Myanmar military, and reform its trade policy to penalise states found to be committing genocide.
Myanmar’s return to a military-led government opens the risk of further ethnic cleansing and crimes against the Rohingya Muslims and other minorities. The international community must increase its efforts to protect minorities within Myanmar’s borders and bring those within the military guilty of these crimes against humanity to justice.
This resonates even more, as we see the tragic events unfold in Palestine and Israel. The violent acts of the Israeli government show utter contempt for international law and human rights and serve as a sobering reminder of what can happen, when the international community fails to act.
Our fantastic speakers shared their insights into the current situation in Myanmar and highlighted the ongoing crackdown on freedoms and human rights, which demand immediate attention and action.
Speakers included: Kayleigh Long, Myanmar researcher at Amnesty International; Rushanara Ali MP, Chair of the APPG on Burma; Shadow Foreign Minister for Asia and the Pacific, Stephen Kinnock MP; Ben Rodgers, CEO of Hong Kong Watch and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party’s human rights commission, and Wai Hnin Thon from the Burma Campaign UK.
The Government must follow the lead of Canada and the Netherlands and formally join The Gambia’s genocide case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice, as well as calling for a global arms embargo against the military regime in Myanmar.