Members of the European Parliament have called for immediate action to end “ethnic cleansing” in Myanmar.
In an extraordinary debate in the chamber of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, MEP Amjad Bashir said: “We cannot let this suffering be met with only shrugged shoulders and bleeding hearts.”
The debate was prompted by a Sky News report from Myanmar broadcast last month.
In the report, Sky’s Alex Crawford revealed the extent of suffering among Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya Muslims fleeing their country for neighbouring Bangladesh.
Mr Bashir, a Conservative MEP for Yorkshire and The Humber, warned: “We in this Parliament and in the Commission, have great collective powers and responsibilities.
“One day our grandchildren may ask how we used that power when a whole people were being killed and persecuted.
“Please – let’s choose to have an answer that is decent and honourable.”
During the debate, targeted sanctions were proposed and MEPs urged the European Commission and Council to call an urgent international summit of interested parties to address the issue.
The proposed summit would call for Myanmar to:
– Guarantee the safety of returning Rohingya
– Restore citizen’s rights which have been denied, including rights to property, work and health care
– Set up an inquiry into all allegations crimes against humanity arising from the persecution
Mr Bashir said: “We need urgent action – or the Rohingya will be wiped out or driven from Myanmar entirely.
“If anyone questions that this is ethnic cleansing I say – look for the hallmarks: Men and boys separated and murdered, women and girls raped and disfigured as a means of subjugation and control, homes and crops burnt, whole villages destroyed overnight and left, smouldering and stinking of death, people fleeing to save their lives because they have nothing else left to save.
“If there is any aspect of ethnic cleansing the Myanmar authorities have left untried – then I don’t know what it is. And still the world wrings its hands over how to respond.”
The parliamentarians paid tribute to media organisations including Sky News for highlighting the plight of the Rohingya people.
“We should pay tribute once more to the work of brave journalists such as Alex Crawford, who has done so much to reveal the plight of the Rohingya to the world,” Mr Bashir said.
“Her powerful film, which we showed in the parliament last week, warrants a more vigorous response than mere words of concern.”
The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, listened to the debate.
Last month, she held meetings with Myanmar’s heavily criticised de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and visited refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh.
Speaking in the Strasbourg chamber, she said: “I heard stories… once you hear them, you never, never forget them.
“When you hear these stories, action is not just a political priority anymore, it comes sort of a moral imperative. I am telling you this because sometimes we have to link the political dynamics to stories and faces and people.”
Ms Mogherini said her November meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi was “very important”.
She said: “We agreed at that meeting on a shared perspective to start facing the crisis.
“Step-by-step but with strong commitments and a strong regional and international involvement.”