Violence in Rakhine State and the UK’s response Contents


1.In response to serious concern about the situation in Burma1 in August 2017, the Committee started our work this Parliament with a short inquiry into the violence in Rakhine state. Our report focuses almost exclusively on the foreign policy aspects of the crisis and the work of the FCO. In particular, we wanted to examine whether the FCO was living up to the UK Government’s role as a leading voice on Burma, particularly in relation to the Responsibility to Protect, in the UN and elsewhere, and if the UK’s own policy toward Burma merited an internal review given recent developments. We thank all of those who participated in this inquiry and provided invaluable information. We have not attempted to cover every topic or quote at length in this report, but the high quality of written evidence informs it throughout, and is published alongside. We note also the International Development Committee’s investigation into DFID’s work on Bangladesh, Burma and the Rohingya crisis and have taken account of its work in this report.

2.The Rohingya crisis in Burma has complex historical, political, social, and religious elements.2 It is also part of a wider story of Burma, which is undergoing a complicated political transition from decades of military rule to a form of democracy, while continuing to struggle with multiple armed movements representing various ethnic groups, some of whom are seeking independence. This cannot all be adequately covered in a short report. Instead, in this report we set out the grave situation in Northern Rakhine as it has been reported to us, and then focus on four issues which are either urgent or have a particular UK responsibility:

a)Whether the crisis should be understood as ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, or genocide;

b)Whether the UK’s bilateral and multilateral approach has been effective and commensurate with the situation;

c)The challenges ahead in terms of repatriation of refugees and the risk of the creation of permanent camps;

d)The extent to which the crisis was predictable, and even preventable, and how the UK’s future relationship with Burma should be conducted.

1 The then-ruling military junta changed the country’s name to Myanmar in 1989. There is mixed practice on which name is used. In accordance with the FCO approach, Burma has been used throughout this report.

2 For background, see, for example: “Towards a Peaceful, Fair and Prosperous Future for the People of Rakhine”, Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, 23 August 2017

8 December 2017