Supporters of newly-released Aung San Suu Kyi
The UK is working to ensure that the UN does what it can to facilitate a transition to democracy in Burma.
Foreign Secretary visits Burma
On 5 and 6 January 2012, Foreign Secretary William Hague visited Burma for talks with political leaders including President Thein Sein, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and representatives of ethnic minorities. This was the first by a British Foreign Secretary to Burma in more than half a century. The Foreign Secretary wrote about his historic visit on his return.
Elections: 7 November 2010
The Burmese government held elections on 7 November: the first in two decades. The series of laws setting out the conditions under which the elections were held forced the National League for Democracy (NLD) to disband because they would have required the NLD to: expel Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners from the party; pledge to uphold the flawed 2008 Constitution; and participate in the elections. The laws annul the NLD’s sweeping victory in the 1990 elections. Therefore the NLD agreed on 29 March not to re-register the party for the elections.
The United Nations Secretary-General reiterated his call to the Burmese authorities 'to provide greater assurances that the current process marks a genuine departure from the status quo' in a statement on 8 November 2010.Minister for South East Asia and Far East Jeremy Browne discussed Burma's elections on BBC News.
Release of Aung San Suu Kyi: 13 November 2010
Aung San Suu Kyi was released on 13 November following her arbitrary detention for most of the last 20 years. Since her release, she has made one political trip outside Rangoon, to Bago, about 50 miles north of Rangoon, on 14 August. It appears that the Burmese authorities have not sought to restrict her movements. Our Ambassador is in regular contact with Aung San Suu Kyi.
Dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and release of political prisoners
The new Burmese government has entered into a process of dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, and she met the Burmese President on 19 August.
On 12 October, the Burmese government announced a prisoner amnesty. Over 200 political prisoners were among those released. But hundreds of political prisoners remain in detention and their release remains a core demand of the international community.
Visit by the Secretary of State for International Development, the Right Honourable Andrew Mitchell MP, 15 to 17 November 2011
The Secretary of State visited Burma for three days. He met President Thein Sein, Vice-President Tin Aung Myint Oo, the Speaker of the Lower House Shwe Mann, and the Ministers of Industry, Railways, Border Affairs and Health. In Mandalay he visited UK-funded development projects. In Rangoon he met Aung San Suu Kyi and representatives of ethnic groups, other political parties, activists, civil society groups, and the recently freed political prisoner Zarganar.
Speaking to members of the Burmese Government, Mr Mitchell both welcomed the progress that the government has recently made towards political reform and strongly urged that the momentum of reform be maintained. In particular he pressed for:
• a full release of political prisoners
• continued progress in the dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi ;
• free and fair by-elections;
• urgent moves towards a resolution to the ethnic conflicts; and
• improved humanitarian access in border areas.
The UK will be providing £185 million of aid in total between 2011 and 2015.
By-elections in 2012
The Burmese government have proposed to hold by-elections in early 2012, although have yet to announce the date. On 4 November, the President agreed to an amendment to the Political Parties Registration Law. Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), subsequently decided to re-register as a political party and to participate in the forthcoming by-elections. Aung San Suu Kyi has expressed her intention to stand as a candidate.
The Security Council remains engaged on Burma. It met on 14 November May to hear a briefing from the Secretary-General’s Chef de Cabinet, Mr Nambiar following his visit to Burma on 31 October to 4 November. We welcomed recent democratic reforms. But we made clear that these were the first steps in a longer process and the international should respond once the first phase of reform was complete. We called on the Burmese government to release all remaining political prisoners, hold free and fair by-elections and begin a serious process of national reconciliation. We remained deeply concerned by increased violence and credible reports of human rights abuses in the ethnic regions.
General Assembly Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in Burma
The UN General Assembly has adopted a resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in Burma every year since 1991. In November 2011 the twenty-first resolution was adopted by a majority vote of the 193 members of the United Nations. The Foreign Secretary welcomed the adoption in a statement. While recognising the Government of Burma’s recent commitments to implement reform, promote national reconciliation and safeguard human rights, the 2011 resolution, as in previous years, continues to express grave concern about ongoing systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country. The resolution also provides the mandate for the UN Secretary General’s Good Offices Mission to Burma, to pursue discussion on the human rights situation, the transition to democracy and the national reconciliation process in Burma. The resolution urges the Government to address ongoing serious human rights issues including; the restrictions on fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of expression and assembly; the detention of political prisoners; the deteriorating situation in the ethnic regions; and impunity for past and present human rights abuses.
The Security Council adopted a Presidential Statement on 11 October 2007 that set out the expectations of the international community of the Burmese regime, including the early release of all political prisoners and "a genuine dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and all concerned parties and ethnic groups in order to achieve an inclusive national reconciliation with the direct support of the United Nations".
Burma is a high priority for the Coalition Government. We believe that Burma's leaders must be held to account for the human rights abuses catalogued by the UN over many years. We support the Special Rapporteur 's call for the UN to consider a Commission of Inquiry and are working to build the necessary international support.
Myanmar/Burma was added to the Security Council agenda for the first time in late 2006. On 12 January 2007, a US-drafted Security Council resolution that would have urged Burma's military government to release all political prisoners, speed up progress toward democracy and to stop attacks against ethnic minorities, was vetoed by China and Russia, who believe that Burma does not pose a threat to regional security.
Britain's policy is to refer to Burma rather than 'Myanmar'. The current regime changed the name to Myanmar in 1989. Burma's democracy movement prefers the form ‘Burma’ because they do not accept the legitimacy of the unelected military regime to change the official name of the country. Internationally, both names are recognised.