Britain didn’t do enough to rally world behind Rohingya: MPs

British lawmakers criticise hesitation and failures in the UK’s response to the Myanmar crisis

Rohingya refugees jostle as they line up for a blanket distribution under heavy rainfall at the Balukhali camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh December 11, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Britain did not do enough to turn international outrage over the treatment of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar into effective action as more than 600,000 people fled from state violence to neighbouring Bangladesh, a report by MPs said Monday.

The violence against the Rohingya amounted to ethnic cleansing and possibly genocide but Britain failed to raise enough alarm about the atrocities to galvanise action against the Myanmar military authorities, according to the report ‘Violence in Rakhine State and the UK’s response’.

The all-party group of MPs said that that Britain should pursue sanctions against senior military figures and businesses in Myanmar if there was no substantial improvement in the treatment of the Rohingya.

The UK traditionally leads the response on Myanmar at the UN Security Council but international action was inadequate and the “UK bears some responsibility”, according to MPs on the parliamentary foreign affairs select committee.

They said the position of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi had been compromised but she remained the best, and possibly only, leadership hope for the future.


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“Atrocity crimes require a coordinated international response,” said Tom Tugendhat, the head of the committee. “But it has been over three months since the violence began and the [UK] government has been too slow properly to call the violence what it is.”

The UK did not conduct its own legal analysis of the situation or deliver enough “tough and unwelcome messages” to Myanmar’s government about the treatment of the Muslim minority group.

“This was not befitting its [the UK’s] leading international role and it should immediately investigate and conduct its own assessment of the situation,” according to the report.

The report’s conclusions were similar to the findings of the UN’s top human rights body last week, which said Myanmar’s security forces had “very likely” committed crimes against humanity since a security crack down which began in August.

The UK government disputed the findings of the MPs’ report, saying that it had recognised the violence as ethnic cleansing and had swiftly condemned it.