DVB Interview International sat down with British Ambassador to Burma, Andrew Patrick, at the British Embassy in Rangoon to talk about British military training in Burma, constitutional reform, the Rohingya crisis, and British business interests.
Patrick said the military training, called, “Managing defense in the wider world”, was about how an army behaves and not about combat operations.
“It is about human rights, it is about accountability, about legal framework, about things like child soldiers,” said Patrick.
“It wasn’t about helping the army fight more capably.”
Patrick went on to say that, “Like it or not, the army is a central part of Burmese society,” and it was “better to engage” with the army than to isolate them.
[pullquote] “I just want to assure people, in this interview, that international aid goes to those who need it” [/pullquote]
The ambassador said Britain was campaigning for constitutional reform, but was not necessarily backing Aung San Suu Kyi for the presidency.
“That is what being a modern democratic country is all about – people should have a free choice of who they want to lead them,” said Patrick, “We’re not talking about supporting individuals, we’re talking about supporting a process.”
Patrick said Britain has played an active role in the peace process in Burma and would continue to do so.
“We see the peace process as one of our real priorities. We’ve said for a long time we are prepared to play any role which both sides would like us to play.”
The peace process, said Patrick, was essential for Burma’s democratic future.
Last month, violence broke out in Maungdaw, Arakan state. The British government has been vocal about the situation in western Burma and the ambassador urged the government to grant humanitarian access to those who need it.
“I think there’s a misunderstanding that we are favouring one community over another,” said Patrick. “I just want to assure people, in this interview, that international aid goes to those who need it. That’s why it’s going into the camps where people are unable to work.”
He went on to say that responsibility lay with the government to ensure security is provided.
“The first and most important step is security – that these violent incidents no longer happen,” said Patrick.
“We’ve called on the government to mount a full investigation.”