Guest column: Government must keep up the pressure to end violence in Burma

Sir Kevin Barron. Picture: Richard Maude
Sir Kevin Barron. Picture: Richard Maude

I have been hugely concerned by the reports of alleged human rights violations in Burma.

According to the UN, more than 410,000 people have fled Rakhine State for Bangladesh and I am aware of comments made recently by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights describing this situation as ‘ethnic cleansing’.

Following calls from my colleagues in Parliament and others to do so, the UK Government recently announced that it is suspending military co-operation with Burma’s armed forces.

The UK Government’s immediate priority now must be to build on this announcement by putting pressure on the civilian and military authorities in Burma, in co-ordination with our allies, in order to bring the horrific violence in Rakhine State to an end once and for all.

As well as a complete end to all further violence and the burning of villages, it is vital that those people who have lost their homes and been displaced urgently receive the food, water and medicine they need.

The Burmese authorities must allow immediate and full humanitarian access and support for all of the people and communities that have been affected.

Another issue concerning me is neonicotinoids and the threat they pose to bees.

I support the current European-wide ban on the use of neonicotinoids on crops that are attractive to bees and other pollinators.

The UK Government has said that current environmental regulations – including the ban on neonicotinoids – will remain in place until we leave the EU.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is reviewing the scientific evidence and there are draft proposals for a full EU ban on the three most commonly used neonicotinoids.

I support such a ban and it is vital that we take a science-led approach to pesticide use and consider how best to support farmers, protect wildlife and reverse the decline of pollinators.

I would like to see further research into identifying suitable substitutes to neonicotinoids and support for pest management measures which would benefit farming without posing risks to the environment, and human or animal life.

I will be urging the UK Government to show leadership within the EU by following evidence-based policy and pressing for a ban on bee-harming neonicotinoids.

I also believe that the UK Government must set out how it intends to ensure that existing environmental protections are maintained and enhanced once the UK has left the EU.