HC Deb 12 February 1997 vol 290 c336
17. Mr. Robert Ainsworth

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the steps taken by the Government to promote respect for human rights in Burma. [13970]

Mr. Hanley

We have taken action bilaterally—at the UN and with our EU partners—to put pressure on the ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council to implement democratic reform and full respect for human rights in Burma.

Mr. Ainsworth

On 15 January 1997, the Minister told the House that he was urging the ambassador of Burma to open dialogue with pro-democracy forces. He also told us that he was following the European line regarding relations with Burma. Since then, clear evidence has emerged that the position has deteriorated. In the light of that and of our past relationship with that country, why are we simply following the European line and not taking a lead?

Mr. Hanley

I do not agree that we are merely following others. We are helping to develop the UN General Assembly resolution and we were at the forefront of developing the EU common position, which the hon. Gentleman feels is not effective. The EU common position that was recently adopted, which imposes a ban on entry visas for senior members of SLORC and senior military and security force officials and on high-level bilateral visits to Burma, the suspension of non-humanitarian official aid, which has been enforced for some nine years, the arms embargo in 1991 and the cutting of all remaining defence links in 1992 are pretty strong reactions. We continue to use the services of our excellent ambassador in Rangoon, Robert Gordon, to make our presence felt directly, not only to the ruling regime but in discussion with Aung San Suu Kyi.