Report slams lack of action over ethnic cleansing and asks why more sexual violence experts have not been sent to area
International plans for the potential return of 100,000 Rohingya to Myanmar without a clear understanding of their legal status, destination or willingness to return represent a grave risk, a select committee has warned.
In a tough report questioning the UK government’s strategy towards the military regime in Myanmar, the all-party international development select committee challenged ministers to “reflect on why so much evidence of discrimination, marginalisation and abuse of the Rohingya people in Myanmar was seemingly ignored for so long, rather than translated into effective action by the international community”.
It said: “Conduct, described clearly as amounting to ‘ethnic cleansing’, has been regularly reported by groups such as Human Rights Watch for some years and yet nothing effective seems to have been attempted to stop it.”
It suggested ministers, in retrospect, took an over-optimistic view of how far democracy had developed in Myanmar, and in the leadership likely to be given by Nobel prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. The report suggested that “continuing engagement” with Myanmar “seems to have been interpreted as tacit acceptance of the treatment of the Rohingya”.
The committee said the repatriation of displaced Rohingya from Bangladesh to Myanmar was well under way “without any evidence of consultation or involvement with the community”.
The select committee said: “The required conditions for the safe return of the Rohingya must include … access to fundamental human rights. Previous episodes of displacement and return of the Rohingya, and other ethnic minorities, over the last 20 years do not inspire confidence.
“It is unacceptable to propose that the Rohingya be returned to live in Burmese-run internment camps; inevitably to be faced with further privations, potential abuses and uncertain access for outside agencies; and likely only to be displaced once again if there is further violence.”
The committee also asked the government why so few of its expert sexual-violence-in-conflict team have been deployed to help the Rohingya. William Hague, when he was foreign secretary, made combatting sexual violence in conflict a major priority. It says only two full-time staff have been deployed.
The select committee released a private letter Hague sent to the Foreign Office asking ministers to send its prevention-of-sexual-violence team to Myanmar or the refugee camps in Bangladesh.