On Tuesday, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we delivered more than 2,000 campaign postcards from our supporters to the British Foreign Office. The campaign is calling on the Foreign Secretary to support the establishment of an international investigation into rape and sexual violence committed by the Burmese Army.
In June 2014, Burma signed the Declaration to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. The declaration contains practical and political commitments to end impunity, promote accountability, and provide justice and safety for victims of sexual violence in conflicts.
Five months on, Burma's military-backed government has taken no steps to implement the declaration. Instead, the Burmese government intimidated and arrested women who protested against the attempted rape of an ethnic Chin woman by a Burmese Army soldier.
The Burmese government has ignored calls for action by the UN and failed to comply with the International Declaration to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. It is time for the international community to carry out its own investigation into sexual violence by the Burmese Army.
Thank you to everyone who sent in postcards. We still need to keep up the pressure. So, if you haven't yet taken action, you can send an email here.
The influential Foreign Affairs Committee of the British Parliament published a report this week which calls on the British government to support the re-imposition of European Union sanctions on Burma in 12 months' time if there is no improvement in the situation of the Rohingya, and if all political prisoners are not unconditionally released.
The report is part of the Committee's inquiry into the human rights work of the British Foreign Office. The report made several references to the submission we made.
The report also raised concerns about the general approach to human rights by the British Foreign Office, which also apply to Burma. The report criticised claims by the Foreign Office that trade and human rights go hand in hand, stating that there is an "inherent conflict" between promoting UK trade and investment and human rights and that the "Government should recognise that this conflict exists, rather than maintaining that human rights and business interests go hand in hand."
With the British government's policy on Burma, there is a clear conflict of interest in challenging human rights abuses by the Burmese government while at the same time trying to win business contracts from that same government.
On 19 November, there was a debate on Burma in the British Parliament. MPs highlighted the many human rights abuses still taking place in Burma and the failure of the reform process.
However, when Hugo Swire MP responded on behalf of the Foreign Office, he still wouldn't say that the British government agreed reforms have stalled. Instead he referred to Aung San Suu Kyi's comment that reforms have stalled in some areas. In fact, Aung San Suu Kyi went much further than that. Two weeks ago she said:
"If they really study the situation in this country they would know that this reform process started stalling early last year…In fact, I would like to challenge those who talk so much about the reform process, what significant reform steps have been taken within the last 24 months?"
Aung San Suu Kyi, President Obama and the United Nations have all said that Burma's reform process is stalled, backsliding, or backtracking. But the British government is still desperately clinging to the claim that Burma is on some kind of road to democracy.
There is no evidence to support this beyond the claims of former generals who have repeatedly lied to the international community and who have repeatedly broken their promises.