MPs call for Burma Investigations

18 Jan 2017

In response to an Urgent Question on Human Rights in Burma (Myanmar) on 18 January 2017, Members of the House of Commons called for a UN Commission of Inquiry into human rights abuses in Rakhine State, and for the Burmese government to investigate the forcible disappearance of two ethnic Kachin Christians in Kachin State.

Dumdaw Nawng Lat and Langjaw Gam Seng, ethnic Kachin Christians, went missing on 24 December 2016 and it is feared that they were forcibly disappeared by the Burmese military. They were reportedly summoned from Mong Ko town in Muse Township, northern Shan State, to a nearby army post on 24 December 2016 to discuss the arrest of a local man. They were last seen there at around 5pm that evening.

Local sources claim that the army are responsible for the forcible disappearance of the two men. Dumdaw Nawng Lat and Langjaw Gam Seng had guided journalists around a Catholic Church which had reportedly been bombed and severely damaged by the Burmese military, and it is believed that their disappearance is an act of retaliation in response to this. The men’s whereabouts and safety is unknown.

Catherine West, Shadow Foreign Office Minister and Labour Member of Parliament for Hornsey and Wood Green said: “For all the progress that has been made, the suppression of the majority in Myanmar has been replaced in far too many cases by the suppression of minorities. In particular… it was shocking to hear of the recent disappearance of two Kachin Christian leaders who have apparently been kidnapped in Northern Shan State. It is incumbent on the government and indeed the international community as a whole to press the Myanmar authorities urgently to provide information of their whereabouts and secure their immediate freedom.” 

David Burrowes, Conservative Member of Parliament for Enfield Southgate, who visited Burma with Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) in 2014, said: “Ministers must do all they can… to be able to get the information that family members need, and not to accept the approved response. Their absence has been described as forced disappearance which is contrary to all international human rights.”

Foreign Office Minister Alok Sharma responded: “We absolutely urge the government of Burma to investigate their case and release them.”

A number of members of the House of Commons noted the grievous human rights abuses committed in Rakhine, Kachin and Northern Shan States, and called for a United Nations Commission of Inquiry on the Human Rights situation in Rakhine State.   

Paul Scully, Conservative Member of Parliament for Sutton and Cheam, who introduced the debate and travelled to Burma with CSW last year, noted the call for a United Nations Commission of Inquiry made on 18 January by 40 Burma-based civil society organisations. He asked if the minister would join in advocating for such an inquiry: “It is very difficult to get accurate information for what is happening in Rakhine State, and so in order to get to the truth beyond false reports, will the Minister call for full access for independent observers and journalists to villages and displacement camps in Rakhine State?” The Rt Hon Alex Salmond, Scottish National Party Member for Gordon, called on the Minister to “use every possible effort to build a consensus that can build an urgent and independent United Nations inquiry.”

CSW's East Asia Team Leader said: “The forced disappearance of Dumdaw Nawng Lat and Langjaw Gam Seng must be investigated by the Burmese government, the perpetrators of this crime must be held to account and these men should be returned to their families, who fear for their safety. CSW welcomes calls for a Commission of Inquiry into the Human Rights Situation in Burma, where crimes against humanity appear to be committed with impunity. The Burmese government have failed to investigate and so the United Nations must act without further delay.”

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