Theresa May vows to tackle ‘inhuman destruction of Rohingya people’

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The Prime Minister is promising Britain will “do everything” amid “heartbreaking images” of desperate refugees fleeing Myanmar.

Theresa May

Theresa May has said the Rohingya crisis “looks like ethnic cleansing”, during a speech in which she praised Sky News’ “heartbreaking” reports on Myanmar’s brutal crackdown.

In a major foreign policy address, at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet in the City of London, the Prime Minister pledged to deepen partnerships with countries in Asia to combat major issues.

“This includes tackling the problems in the region today – such as North Korea, where we have played a leading role in securing sanctions in response to the regime’s outrageous proliferation of nuclear weapons,” she said.

:: Explained: The Rohingya refugee crisis


And paying tribute to Sky’s coverage, Mrs May said: “And it includes continuing to step up our efforts to respond to the desperate plight of Rohingyas – brought home to us again on our TV screens so graphically today, with heartbreaking images of young children emaciated and pleading for help.

“This is a major humanitarian crisis which looks like ethnic cleansing.

“And it is something for which the Burmese authorities – and especially the military – must take full responsibility.”

The Prime Minister added: “The UK is already the largest donor in response to this crisis.

“And we will continue to play a leading role in bringing the international community together – working through the UN and with regional partners to do everything possible to stop this appalling and inhuman destruction of the Rohingya people.”

:: Exclusive: The depth of Rohingya crisis revealed


Mrs May also used her speech to launch a powerful attack on President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policies and pledge the UK will continue to play a leading diplomatic role after Brexit.

The Prime Minister suggested a post-Brexit trade deal would support Europe’s commitment to open economies and free societies in the face of Russian threats to the international order.

“As I said in my speech in Florence, the UK will remain unconditionally committed to maintaining Europe’s security,” she said.

“And the comprehensive new economic partnership we seek will underpin our shared commitment to open economies and free societies in the face of those who seek to undermine them.

“Chief among those today, of course, is Russia. Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea was the first time since the Second World War that one sovereign nation has forcibly taken territory from another in Europe.

“Since then, Russia has fomented conflict in the Donbass, repeatedly violated the national airspace of several European countries, and mounted a sustained campaign of cyber-espionage and disruption.

:: Analysis: UK ‘shirking responsibility’ on Rohingya crisis


Mrs May accused Russia of “seeking to weaponise information” as she criticised Moscow’s meddling in elections and hacking of Denmark’s defence ministry and the German parliament.

“Deploying its state-run media organisations to plant fake stories and photo-shopped images in an attempt to sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions,” she said.

“So I have a very simple message for Russia. We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed.

“Because you underestimate the resilience of our democracies, the enduring attraction of free and open societies, and the commitment of Western nations to the alliances that bind us.

“The UK will do what is necessary to protect ourselves, and work with our allies to do likewise.”

The Prime Minister announced that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will visit Moscow in the coming months for talks, as she promised Britain will “take the necessary actions to counter Russian activity”.

But she added current tensions are “not the relationship with Russia we want”.

:: Why is Rohingya crisis not classed as genocide?

  1. A child refugee is temporarily detained by the border guard in Bangladesh
    A child refugee is temporarily detained by the border guard in Bangladesh

    Image:
    More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled from Buddhist-majority Myanmar to Bangladesh since late August
  2. Rohingya refugees cross the Naf river on an improvised raft
    Rohingya refugees cross the Naf river on an improvised raft

    Image:
    In desperation, refugees are building makeshift rafts to try to cross the Bangladesh-Myanmar border
  3. More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since late August
    More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since late August

    Image:
    Young children and the elderly struggle to cope with the lack of food and water, and poor conditions
  4. A mother and father with their two young children
    A mother and father with their two young children

    Image:
    A mother and father hold their two young children, ahead of the crossing
  5. Hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya driven from their homes
    Hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya driven from their homes

    Image:
    Driven from their homes after a military crackdown, many have lost everything they own
  6. A Rohingya refugee boy cries after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border
    A Rohingya refugee boy cries after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border

    Image:
    A young Rohingya boy cries as he disembarks from the crossing
  7. Refugees on foot at Sabrang near Teknaf, Bangladesh
    Refugees on foot at Sabrang near Teknaf, Bangladesh

    Image:
    After the perilous raft journey, refugees continue their journey on foot
  8. A girl carries all her possessions on her head
    A girl carries all her possessions on her head

    Image:
    A girl carries all her possessions on her head as she walks to a refugee camp
  9. A young boy peeps through a bamboo barricade at the Thankhali refugee camp, Bangladesh
    A young boy peeps through a bamboo barricade at the Thankhali refugee camp, Bangladesh

    Image:
    A young boy peeps through a bamboo barricade at a Bangladesh refugee camp
  10. A little girl makes her way towards a makeshift camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh
    A little girl makes her way towards a makeshift camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh

    Image:
    The Rohingya are regarded as illegal immigrants in Myanmar and most are stateless
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“We do not want to return to the Cold War, or to be in a state of perpetual confrontation,” the Prime Minister said, adding: “For there is another way. Many of us here looked at a post-Soviet Russia with hope.

“Because we know that a strong and prosperous Russia which plays by the rules would be in the interests of the United Kingdom, Europe and the world.

“As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia has the reach and the responsibility to play a vital role in promoting international stability.

“Russia can, and I hope one day will, choose this different path.

“But for as long as Russia does not, we will act together to protect our interests and the international order on which they depend.”

:: Mark Field: Rohingya face ‘humanitarian crisis’

Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks during his visit to the new studio complex of the state-owned English-language Russia Today television network in Moscow, on June 11, 2013. AFP PHOTO/ POOL/ YURI KOCHETKOV (Photo credit should read YURI KOCHETKOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Image:
Mrs May accused Vladimir Putin’s Russia of trying to ‘weaponise information’

On the Middle East, the Prime Minister announced she would visit Jordan later this month to discuss its moves to deal with the challenge of refugees from Syria.

And claiming that Britain is at forefront of international efforts in the fight against Islamic State and Islamist terrorism, Mrs May warned the Government would order military intervention where necessary.

“Of course we must never be paralysed by the myth that armed intervention is doomed to fail,” she said.

“And the UK is not and will not be afraid to deploy its hard power where necessary.”

And on Africa, the Prime Minister revealed she has asked the new International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, who succeeded Priti Patel last week, to link aid and trade.

“It is our partnership with the countries of Asia and Africa in particular that will define the course the world takes,” Mrs May said.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks during his visit to the new studio complex of the state-owned English-language Russia Today television network in Moscow, on June 11, 2013. AFP PHOTO/ POOL/ YURI KOCHETKOV (Photo credit should read YURI KOCHETKOV/AFP/Getty Images)

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