International desk, September 20: The Government is to end its training of Myanmar’s military amid the Rohingya Muslim refugee crisis, the Prime Minister has announced.
Violence in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state has forced more than 420,000 Rohingya to flee and cross into neighbouring Bangladesh.
Speaking to Sky News at the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, Theresa May described the Government as “very concerned” about the Rohingya in Myanmar, also known as Burma.
She said: “The military action against them must stop. We’ve seen too many vulnerable people having to flee for their lives.
“Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese government need to make it very clear that the military action should stop.”
Following pressure from MPs and peers, the Prime Minister confirmed the Government is “going to stop all defence engagement and training of the Burmese military by the Ministry of Defence until this issue is resolved”.
Answers to written parliamentary questions reveal the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has spent more than £650,000 on educational training programmes for Myanmar’s armed forces since 2014.
The UK does not provide combat training but the programmes focus on ethics and governance as well as human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
The programmes are described as “on a small scale”, with the MoD adding “meaningful change will take time” as the courses aim to expose Myanmar’s military to “how modern militaries operate in a democracy”.
Asked whether Britain’s action was being co-ordinated with international allies, Mrs May revealed she had discussed the crisis with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during her trip to Ottawa on Monday.
Mrs May said: “There has been very clear international concern about the issue of the Rohingya people and what is happening to them.”
She added that the Government “believes we must show our concern”.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Ms Suu Kyi on Tuesday to urge her government to address “deeply troubling allegations of human rights abuses and violations”.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner broke her silence over the Rohingya crisis earlier on Tuesday, claiming Myanmar “does not fear international scrutiny”.
In a speech from the country’s capital Naypyidaw, she said: “There have been allegations and counter-allegations.
“We have to make sure those allegations are based on solid evidence before we take action.”
Human rights group Amnesty International accused Ms Suu Kyi of “burying her head in the sand”, branding her comments “little more than a mix of untruths and victim blaming”.