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Column 635that SLORC understands that the resumption of normal relations between the EU and Burma is dependent on improvements in Burma's human rights performance and progress towards political liberalisation and national reconciliation. We shall be using SLORC's attendance at the ASEAN meeting next week to ensure that it understands our concerns. The presidency will explain our position to the SLORC Foreign Minister in the margins of the meetings of the Association of South-East Asian Nations.
As for the refugees in Thailand, we have insisted--we will continue to do so--that SLORC should treat ethnic minorities in the same way as the rest of the population. We have said that it should apply human rights equally to them.
Although we are talking of the first meeting between the EU and a member of the ruling military regime since it seized power, it should not be seen as a departure from our existing policy on dealings with SLORC. We have consistently refused to accept the regime as the legitimate representatives of the Burmese peoples. We also continue to believe that it is the duty of the international community to persist in their efforts to persuade SLORC to bring about the transfer of power to the civilian Government elected by the people in 1990. We hope that the increasing dialogue between SLORC and neighbouring Asian countries, as
Column 636well as western nations, will contribute to that pressure. I concur whole-heartedly with what my hon. Friend said about the universality of human rights.
My hon. Friend mentioned trade links. Trade between Britain and Burma is negligible but increasing. United Kingdom exports for 1993 stood at £19 million and imports were £9 million. There has been an increased interest in the Burmese market. We ensure that British firms are aware of the opportunities in Burma and our policy towards SLORC, but, in line with our European partners, we offer no financial support under ECGD or aid and trade provision.
The British week was consistent with our policy on Burma. There is no obstacle to British companies exploring business opportunities. That is not covered by the European Union embargo on arms sales. That does not derogate from or dull our concern over SLORC.
The continued interest shown in the House reflects the genuine wish of people in Britain to see democracy, freedom and full respect for human rights restored in Burma. We will help to make every possible effort to bring that about. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi once said : "I'm committed to democracy. Until we get there I go on. Let's hope it won't take a lifetime."
We certainly share that hope, but, for as long as it takes, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will have the support of the Government and, I believe, of the House.
Question put and agreed to.
Adjourned accordingly at one minute to Three o'clock till Monday 17 October, pursuant to Resolution [20 July].
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