HC Deb 18 December 1991 vol 201 cc268-9
10. Mr. Edwards

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on relations with the Government of Burma.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd)

We and our European Community partners have repeatedly condemned the Burmese military junta for its failure to respond to the unequivocal outcome of the May 1990 elections, as well as its continuing disregard for human rights, notably demonstrated by the house arrest of 1991 Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.

Mr. Edwards

While the measures taken by Britain in conjunction with our European partners to isolate the Burmese Government are welcome, the military dictators are still in power, they have no intention of handing over power to the democratically elected Government, and the appalling abuse of human rights continues. Bearing in mind that the United States introduced trade sanctions last July, is it not time for Britain to impose a comprehensive trade embargo against Burma?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

We have made many representations. At least four official statements have been made by the United Kingdom. A further four have been made by the European Community and through the United Nations. However, a general trade embargo would not be effective and would require international support, which is not in prospect at present.

Mr. Lester

Will my hon. Friend consider approaching the new Secretary-General to ask him to appoint a special representative to go to Myanmar? We are most worried that the Burmese Government have disregarded not only the United Nations Commission on Human Rights but the foreign minister of the Philippines who went to Burma on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations but was allowed to make representations only on his own behalf. In view of the United Nations resolution passed this year, it is a question of taking the matter to the highest level at the United Nations and appointing a special representative.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The Government of Burma continue to disregard all pressure put upon them, but I am pleased that on 30 November the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution on Burma, in which we were co-sponsors, which called for an improvement in the human rights situation and for progress towards democratic government. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights has begun a scrutiny of Burma, under the confidential 1503 procedure. The special rapporteur visited Rangoon last month and will be presenting his report to the Commission in Geneva in February next year.

Mr. Foulkes

Will the Minister join me and the whole House in paying great tribute to Aung San Suu Kyi as the most worthy recipient of the Nobel peace prize for her courageous struggle against the brutal regime in Burma? As Britain has a special responsibility towards her and her country, can the Minister tell the House what action our ambassador is taking to get access to her and to secure her release? Will the Government now say that we shall initiate urgent discussions with both the United States and our European partners to isolate Burma—[Interruption.]. This is a serious matter, whatever Conservative Members may think. What action will the Government take to isolate Burma until the military relinquish power, and democracy is installed?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

In my earlier reply I told the House what action the United Kingdom Government have taken, in concert with our partners in the European Community and other civilised countries, to condemn utterly the conduct of the Burmese Government and to call for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. I understand that not even her husband is given access to her, but that he has recently been allowed to write letters to her.

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