To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to allegations of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people; if so, the efforts he and his European counterparts are making to protect the Rohingya and to ensure their human rights are upheld; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien.
The Government welcomes the democratic transition which is currently underway in Myanmar/Burma following elections in November 2015, and the positive steps that the new Government of Myanmar/Burma has taken in pursuit of peace and reconciliation, democratic reforms and economic growth. We in Ireland understand that building peace and trust takes time, and that there is a need to ensure that respect for the human rights and access to livelihoods for all communities is central to enabling long-term peace and stability.
However, as I noted in Parliamentary Question 255 on 15 December 2016, the Government is deeply concerned about recent violence in Rakhine State. The Government calls for an end to this violence, and is of the view that there is a pressing need for an impartial, independent investigation into allegations of human rights violations in this region, as well as the full restoration of access for humanitarian aid.
Officials from my Department met recently with members of the Rohingya Community in Ireland and representatives of Burma Action Ireland to discuss their views and information they had collected from families and friends in Myanmar/Burma, some of which involved allegations of serious human rights abuses.
Ireland has been active in raising our concerns at bilateral level with the authorities in Myanmar/Burma. We have also been active in raising our concerns in the context of our membership of the EU and the UN, where the situation in Rakhine State continues to receive attention since the latest outbreak of violence began in October 2016.
There has been no change in the diplomatic relations between Ireland and Myanmar/Burma, since the reports emerged. Ireland’s Embassy in Bangkok, which is accredited to Myanmar/Burma, is monitoring the situation closely. Earlier this month Ambassador Brendan Rogers travelled to Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon, where he raised Ireland’s concerns about the situation in Rakhine State with Minister of State for Foreign Affairs U Kyaw Tin. He conveyed the Government’s recognition of the complexity of the issues involved, while urging the Government of Myanmar to ensure that allegations of human rights violations are addressed, and to restore access to the region for humanitarian aid and the media.
On 9 December 2016, the Embassy joined a number of likeminded diplomatic missions in a statement which expressed serious concerns about access for humanitarian aid to the region. The statement welcomed the Government of Myanmar’s agreement to allow a resumption of humanitarian assistance and initial deliveries to some villages, but expressed serious concerns about delays and urged Myanmar’s authorities to overcome the obstacles that have so far prevented a full resumption. In relation to attacks against security personnel in Rakhine State and allegations of abuse in the subsequent security operations, the statement said that security forces must ensure protection of all civilians, and that the creation of an Investigation Commission offers an opportunity to investigate these incidents and allegations objectively and transparently, as well as expose acts of violence and abuse.
The third EU-Myanmar Human Rights Dialogue took place on 22 November 2016. At the meeting, the EU similarly expressed concerns about the recent security and human rights situation in northern Rakhine state, reiterating calls for an independent, credible investigation into both initial attacks and subsequent actions, as well as for the urgent re-opening of humanitarian access to the populations in need.
Ireland also supported the EU-led resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar/Burma at the 31st session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in March, which conveyed the HRC’s serious concerns over human rights violations in the country, including the situation in Rakhine State and particularly with respect to religious and ethnic minorities, including the Rohingya minority. Ireland also raised this issue in a statement at the 32nd session of the HRC in June 2016 and during the review of Myanmar’s human rights record at the HRC’s Universal Periodic Review in November 2015.
In addition to these efforts, Ireland has provided development assistance and humanitarian aid to address the needs of people in Rakhine State, including the Rohingya community. Since 2014 Ireland has provided €284,000 to Plan International for interventions in the region.
The Irish Government is of the view that the underlying root causes of tensions in Rakhine State must be addressed with long-term solutions led by the Government of Myanmar/Burma. The need to guarantee respect for human rights and the rule of law for all people in Myanmar/Burma remains central to achieving this. Ireland has also called for more investment in early recovery and support for livelihood opportunities for both the Rohingya and Buddhist communities in Rakhine State.