We are deeply concerned about the crisis in the Bay of Bengal, and particularly for the thousands of people adrift in the Andaman Sea and Malacca Straits.
It is vital that Burma addresses the longer-term issues which lie at the root of the problem - namely the desperate conditions in which Rohingya communities are living in Rakhine State. I asked the Burmese Ambassador in London to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 18 May to express our concern at the situation, and press Burma to take urgent steps to deal with the humanitarian implications of the crisis, as well as the underlying causes in Rakhine. I also met the Bangladeshi Foreign Secretary on 20 May and raised the need for Bangladesh to work within the region to address people trafficking and irregular migration.
It is clear that this is an issue that requires a comprehensive regional response, and as such we welcomed the Thai authorities’ decision to call a regional summit on 29 May to tackle the broader issues. Our Ambassador in Bangkok attended this summit as an observer. We also very much welcome the 20 May decision, from the Foreign Ministers of Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, to provide humanitarian assitance those stranded at sea.
As I made clear in a Parliamentary debate in January, we have long encouraged a wider UN leadership role to help bring about a long term solution to bring peace and reconciliation to all communities in Rakhine State. UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon called Burmese President Thein Sein on 20 May to discuss this issue. It was also discussed at the UN Security Council on 28 May.
The UK is playing its part to resolve the dire situation in Rakhine. Since 2012, the UK has been one of the largest bilateral humanitarian donors in Rakhine State. We have invested over £18m in humanitarian support there, which helps to provide shelter; water sanitation and hygiene; nutrition and protection activities; and non-food items for over 122,000 people. We also strongly support the UN’s coordination of the international humanitarian response.