Click here to read the full speech
On Friday 7th October the Speaker of the House of Commons, Rt Hon John Bercow MP, addressed an audience of students from the Yangon School of Political Science in Burma.
In a wide-ranging speech, the Speaker talked about the essential role that Parliament plays in a democracy, and cited his own efforts to bring the British Parliament to the people by visiting schools and universities across the UK to meet with young people and encourage greater engagement.
On the protection of minorities, he said:
“For a democracy to thrive, it must be underpinned by the rule of law and protection of human rights. And among the range of human rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, those enshrined in Article 18 are among the most foundational. In your country as in mine, there is a majority religion which is recognised and respected – but the rights of minorities must equally be protected.”
He also spoke of the practical help that the House of Commons has provided to the Burmese Hluttaw in terms of the provision of a programme of research support, which was later broadened to include committee assistance:
“Since 2013, we have been working to enhance the capacity of the Hluttaw, in response to the very direct request made by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in the course of her historic speech in Westminster Hall on 21st June 2012.”
Speaking after his address, Mr Bercow said: “I first travelled Burma twelve years ago, and it was that visit that marked the beginning of my personal commitment to the country and to the remarkable Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Burma’s future is, for the first time in a long time, a cause for cautious optimism, albeit recognising it still faces many challenges. I will watch its voyage towards a thriving parliamentary democracy with interest, and I will continue to make myself available if there is anything I can assist with in this important journey.”