HC Deb 12 May 1998 vol 312 c137
2. Jackie Ballard (Taunton)

What discussions officials from his Department have had with representatives of the Karen people in south-east Asia. [40491]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Derek Fatchett)

In the course of their normal diplomatic business, officials in Rangoon, Bangkok and London have met Karens. Most recently, in March, our ambassador at Bangkok and officials from London visited camps sheltering Karen and other refugees on the Thai-Burma border.

Jackie Ballard

I thank the Minister for that reply. Will he ensure that the United Kingdom uses its presidency of the European Union to press for sanctions against the Burmese regime while it continues to repress pro-democracy groups and the Karenni people?

Mr. Fatchett

The hon. Lady knows that the United Kingdom has in its presidency reconfirmed the common EU position on Burma, which expresses our strong condemnation of the Burmese regime's violation of human rights. I assure her that we will continue to work hard to help the humanitarian position of refugees, particularly the Karen refugees. She will be pleased to know that during the last financial year the United Kingdom devoted more than £250,000 to that purpose.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

Will the Minister's Department, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, issue a reassuring statement to the Karen people of Myanmar, and to the peoples of all the states neighbouring India, about the grave potential consequences of the detonation of three nuclear devices in a test programme by the Indians yesterday and the risk of an arms race and nuclear proliferation in the region?

Mr. Fatchett

I am sure that all hon. Members condemn the nuclear explosions detonated by the Indian Government yesterday. They will add to regional instability and are a source of concern for others in the region. We urge the Indian Government to sign up to the non-proliferation and test ban treaties. We also urge restraint on Pakistan so that it is not persuaded into an arms race that would be even worse for the stability of the region.

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