Theresa May’s spokesman said: “We’ve been appalled by the inhumane violence that’s taking place in Rakhine state.
“It’s a major humanitarian crisis. It’s been created by the Burmese military and it looks like ethnic cleansing.”
More than 600,000 of the Muslim ethnic minority from Myanmar’s Rakhine state have reportedly fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh amid the military clearance operations.
The UK government’s comments came on the same day that Irish musician and anti-poverty activist Bob Geldof said he would return his “Freedom of the City of Dublin” award to his hometown, saying he refused to hold the honor in conjunction with Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The situation in Rakhine has prompted global calls for Suu Kyi to be stripped of all her former human rights accolades because she has not condemned the Myanmar military’s actions.
“I am a very proud Dubliner but cannot in all conscience continue to be one of the honored few to have received this great tribute whilst Aung San Suu Kyi remains among that number,” Geldof said in a statement.
“Her association with our city shames us all and we should have no truck with it, even by default. We honored her, now she appalls and shames us,” Geldof said.
“The moment she is stripped of her Dublin Freedom perhaps the Council would see fit to restore to me that which I take such pride in. If not so be it. Please accept this small gesture and the sadness that accompanies it.”
In a statement issued on Monday the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Ardmheara Micheal Mac Donncha, said: “Bob Geldof is entitled to return his award if he wishes to do so. It should be pointed out that as Ardmheara I have condemned the persecution of the Rohingya people and their expulsion from their homes by the military in Myanmar and the failure of Aung San Suu Kyi to even acknowledge, let alone condemn, what the UN has described as ethnic cleansing.”
He added: “I have met Rohingya representatives in Ireland and I am pledged to assist them. When I raised the issue of removing the Freedom of the City from the Myanmar leader, a consensus was not reached among the groups on the city council, though all have condemned the persecution of the Rohingya people, and the matter is not closed.”
Last month Suu Kyi was stripped of a similar honor by the British university city of Oxford, where she was an undergraduate.
The University of Bristol, one of the several universities to award honorary degrees to the Burmese leader during her time in opposition, has also said it is reviewing its award in light of accusations of mistreatment of the Rohingya.
A spokesperson for the University of Bristol told Arab News: “The university shares the growing concern with the ongoing situation in Myanmar. In 1998, we awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws to Dr. Aung San Suu Kyi, who at the time was leading the struggle for human rights and democracy in the then Burma. In terms of this award, it would be wrong to make any decision at this time to consider revoking such an honor but we will continue to monitor and review the situation as necessary.”
Unison, the UK’s second-largest trade union, confirmed to Arab News that it had suspended Suu Kyi’s honorary membership in September and that the situation in Burma will be “discussed” at UNISON’s next international committee meeting later this month to consider the “next steps.”
International human rights charity Amnesty International (AI) has carried out extensive research on the current Rohingya crisis, as well as the long-term pattern of discrimination against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine State.
An AI spokesperson told Arab News: “This is a clear case of ethnic cleansing. In legal terms, Amnesty international has consistently documented six separate types of crimes against humanity being committed against the Rohingya amid the current crisis: murder, deportation and forcible displacement, torture, rape and other sexual violence, persecution, and other inhumane acts such as denying food and other life-saving provisions.
“Our ongoing investigation into the crisis has been informed by multiple research trips to the Myanmar/Bangladesh border since the current wave of violence began, as well as expert analysis of satellite imagery and other remote sensing technology that has revealed the devastating scale of the Myanmar military’s targeted, scorched-earth campaign against Rohingya.”
The charity said it would issue a comprehensive new report in late November, based on two years of research, “covering the pervasive and long-standing discrimination against Rohingya that is one of the root causes behind this crisis.”