The Rohingya and the Myanmar Government: 17th October 2017

Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Con)
In effect, there is no debate in this place this afternoon, because we are all of the same voice and of the same opinion, as we know ​from the words that right hon. and hon. Members have read out by way of testimony from the Rohingya people who have suffered in this dreadful genocide, and from the right hon. and hon. Members who have seen with their own eyes and listened with their own ears to the plight of these people.

As it turns out, the Rohingya people have been persecuted and treated appallingly not just by the Burmese authorities, but sadly, often by many of the Burmese people themselves, and not just for years, but for decades if not centuries. This is a long-standing problem, but it is now of a scale that is absolutely, totally and without any doubt unacceptable. I praise the British Government for being at the forefront in calling out the terrible, terrible persecution of these people, and for the aid that has been provided thus far.

Our hearts do go out to Bangladesh. It is not exactly one of the world’s richest countries, yet the people of Bangladesh have opened their borders, opened their hearts and given of their limited resources to people who are in the most appalling of situations of flight and plight. One cannot sit in this place and not have been touched to one’s core by the words of the real testimonies we have heard about this atrocious act of inhumanity, genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Those words are all the right ones to use—they convey right hon. and hon. Members’ passion and emotion—but words are not enough. We now need not only action from our Government, with all that they have done, but for our Government to continue to lead across the world in saying to the Burmese authorities that this is not acceptable and we will not tolerate it, and in doing more to put full pressure on the Burmese authorities.

I must say two further things. The first is that I very much join right hon. and hon. Members in the words they have said about Aung San Suu Kyi. She was a woman who I always believed had shown great courage in her overriding humanity, and I am afraid she has let herself down, never mind the Rohingya people. All of us believed so much in what she stood for, and I gravely fear that she has put her own position in the history of our world at peril. How can I argue against those who are calling for her peace prize to be removed from her?

My other point is that when the hon. Member for Tooting (Dr Allin-Khan) and I went to the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, we saw people who had been there for four or five years, and she told me about her work in Palestinian refugee camps and about the people who have been there for 15 or 20 years. It worries me more than perhaps anything else that these wonderful, good people may be living in refugee camps for decades to come. They want to go home, and it is our duty throughout the world to make sure that the camps are not still there in decades to come. We must make sure that these people, like all refugees, can go home.

Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD)
The right hon. Lady mentioned refugee camps in different parts of the world. What is happening to the Rohingya is horrendous, given the testimony that we have heard today. In common with many past disasters, is it not absolutely vital that there is access for agencies so that they can go in and gather evidence and testimony, so that the case can be made and the people responsible for perpetrating the atrocities are brought to justice in the international courts?

Anna Soubry
I agree with everything that the hon. Lady said. I am absolutely sure that all those things will be done. As the Minister explained, the Government have not stood back on any of that. In fact, they want to step up and assist. Somehow, somewhere along the line, it has to be more than words and the sticking-plaster that refugee camps can almost become. We do wonderful things through our great aid agencies and DFID. We are proud as a country that we provide aid in that way, but there is a danger that we do all those great things but do not solve the real problem, which is genocide, racism and hatred of a good people for no other reason than that they happen to be Muslims. It is not good enough, and the world must step up and say, “We will not tolerate this. We will stop this.” It is 2017. The history of the world is ridden with all sorts of genocide. Too often we have stood back; now we must step up and make sure that it never happens again.