Burma risks becoming 'the next Rwanda' as violence grows

Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary expected to announce fresh trade deals between UK and Burma when they meet President Thein Sein at Downing Street

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The Independent Online

David Cameron is being urged to demand an end to the violence against Burma's Muslim minority when he meets the country's President in London tomorrow.

Campaigners say Burma risks becoming "the next Rwanda", with chilling echoes of the build-up to the 1990s genocide in evidence.

The Prime Minister and William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, are expected to announce fresh trade deals between the UK and Burma when they meet President Thein Sein at Downing Street. The talks follow Mr Cameron's historic visit to Burma last year, when he also met the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. He was the first Western leader to visit Burma since elections took place for the first time in 20 years in 2010.

President Sein's government is military backed and there remain deep concerns over human rights and democratic reform. Hundreds of Rohingya, the Muslim minority people, have been killed and 140,000 have been displaced since violence erupted last year. President Sein has been accused of failing to protect the Rohingya, and some members of the regime have been accused of participating in the attacks.

Avaaz, the global campaign group, which has gathered 970,000 signatures urging the UK and France to back a peace plan ahead of President Sein's visit, noted five parallels between the situations in Burma and Rwanda including making Rohingya second-class citizens, as with the Rwandan Tutsis, ethnic violence erupting after decades of discrimination in both countries, and state participation and complicity in persecution.

As with Rwanda, where the international community was slow to wake up to the genocide, Avaaz says that since the elections replaced the junta with a military-backed civilian government, Western nations such as the UK and France are doing little to stop the deteriorating situation facing the Rohingya.

Ahamed Jarmal, general secretary of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, said: "We are being hacked to death, burned in our houses and driven from our homes. The only way to stop genocide is to prevent it from happening. Before commercial contracts are signed, Cameron must demand that the generals will not wipe the Rohingya off the map of Burma."