Britain must stop “legitimizing human rights abusers” and halt its training of Myanmar soldiers amid reports of the ongoing “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya Muslims in the south-east Asian country, anti-arms trade activists told RT.
Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) spokesman Andrew Smith said there should be an investigation into how Britain contributes to the training of Myanmar soldiers, and what sort of impact its aid is having on ground forces.
“The Burmese military has an appalling human rights record,” CAAT spokesman Andrew Smith told RT.
“Questions need to be asked about the training being provided by the UK – what is it for and what has been its impact?
“The UK should not be strengthening or legitimizing human rights abusers.”
His comments come as a top UN human rights official claimed on Monday that Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state is a “textbook example” of ethnic cleansing.
Speaking to the UN human rights council in Geneva, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein condemned the “brutal security operation” being carried out by Myanmar soldiers.
The military started its offensive after a group of Rohingya militants carried out an attack on a police post in northern Rakhine on August 25, killing 12 security personnel.
Ra’ad, however, said the military counter-offensive is “clearly disproportionate” to the insurgent attack.
More than 300,000 Rohingyas – who are often described as the “world’s most persecuted minority” – are understood to have fled to neighboring Bangladesh in the past two weeks, amid reports of the burning of villages and extrajudicial killings.
Despite Rohingyas having lived in the predominantly Buddhist country since the 12th century, they remain a stateless community as Myanmar law fails to acknowledge the minority group as a national race.
A group of 157 MPs on Saturday called on Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to halt Britain’s military training in Myanmar, which cost the UK around £305,000 last year, according to the Independent.
Answers to written parliamentary questions reveal that Britain does not train for combat, but seeks to educate Myanmar soldiers on democracy, leadership and the English language.
Back in November, the former Armed Forces Minister Mike Penning said it is yet unknown whether the Myanmar soldiers trained by the UK have any involvement in operations carried out against the Rohingya.
Moreover, he added that officials had not verified if Britain’s training efforts had improved the country’s human rights.
In a letter to Johnson, the parliamentarians, led by Labour MP Rushanara Ali, who co-chairs the all-party parliamentary group for democracy in Myanmar, said: “Based on reports from the United Nations, human rights organisations and Rohingya organisations, we are witnessing human rights violations on a scale extreme even by the standards of Myanmar’s (Burma’s) history.
“Estimates of people killed range from official figures of hundreds dead, to estimates by reliable Rohingya organisations of between 2,000 to 3,000 killed.
“Eye-witnesses describe civilians being shot indiscriminately, people forced to lie down in rows and then shot in the back of the head, beheadings, rape, rounding people up into buildings which are then set fire to, and deliberate shooting of children.
“At the same time (militant group) ARSA (Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army) appears to have been targeting ethnic Rakhine, the Mro community and people of other races and religions, exacerbating communal tensions and violence.”
Addressing the House of Commons last week, shadow foreign minister Liz McInnes also hit out at the government for its “wholly inappropriate” licensing of arm sales worth up to half a million pounds to Myanmar in the past three years.
While calling on ministers to do everything in their capacity to help bring an end to the “senseless violence,” McInnes said: “Would you accept that your colleagues and the Ministry of Defence demonstrated shockingly poor judgment in spending £250,000 from the aid budget, no less, on training members of Myanmar’s army?”
RT has approached the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for comment, but is still awaiting a response.