Urgent action needed on Rohingya crisis, UK minister to say

Mark Field, the UK’s minister of state for Asia and the Pacific, will make the comments at the Asia-Europe meeting in Myanmar

Rohingya refugees walk towards a refugee camp after crossing the border in Anjuman Para near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, November 19, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain
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“Swift action” is needed to prevent further bloodshed and atrocities against ethnic Rohingya people in Myanmar, a British foreign minister will say on Monday.

Speaking at the Asia-Europe meeting (ASEM) in Myanmar, Mark Field, minister of state for Asia and the Pacific, will reiterate the UK’s call for the government and military in Myanmar to allow full humanitarian access to the western state of Rakhine, where the violence has been focused.

He will also urge the government to allow Rohingya refugees to return to Myanmar, which is the country formerly known as Burma.

More than 600,000 people from the embattled Muslim minority have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh over the past two and a half months.

In the name of putting down a supposed Rohingya rebellion, the army has since late August waged a sweeping military campaign in Rakhine, burning villages and sending thousands into what has become the largest exodus in today's world.

The United Nations has denounced the campaign, including allegations of killings and mass rape, as "ethnic cleansing".


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Foreign ministers from Asia and Europe are gathering in Myanmar for the 13th ASEM meeting, where they will also meet with the country's de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Ms Suu Kyi has faced international condemnation for her silence over the treatment of the Rohingya and her failure to publicly criticise the army ever since it launched its offensive in August.

Mr Field will say: “I could not attend [the ASEM meeting] without raising the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine state and reiterating the international community’s call for the Burmese government and military to urgently ensure full humanitarian access, allow the return of refugees and protect civilians.

“We need swift action to prevent further suffering.”

The UK is the largest bilateral donor to the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh, with a total contribution of £47 million.

Mr Field will also touch upon the mounting tensions with North Korea over its nuclear programme.

North Korea staged its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on September 3, detonating what it said was a hydrogen bomb, and most recently launched a ballistic missile on September 15, firing it over the Japanese island of Hokkaido into the Pacific Ocean.

A statement from the UK's Foreign Office said: “Mr Field will stress that it is the international community’s duty to increase collective pressure on [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons and come to the negotiating table.

“He will call for UN sanctions to be enforced urgently and rigorously to ensure the North Korean regime understands it should now change course.”