“The Myanmar Ambassador was summoned to the FCDO during the Rohingya crisis in 2017.”

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, statement made in an email to Peter Oborne

February 9, 2021

Facts

When Boris Johnson was foreign secretary in 2017, Britain - as Penholder for Myanmar at the United Nations - had a special responsiblility to confront genocidal attacks on the Muslim Rohingya population. Troops swept through Rohingya areas of Myanmar, murdering, raping and burning as they went. Men and older women were shot dead while younger women were raped and then burned alive. Thousands of Rohingya were killed and more than 700,000 fled to neighbouring Bangladesh. 

Yet, speaking in the Commons the junior minister responsible for Burma, Mark Field appeared to blame the Rohingya themselves. He told MPs that he condemned attacks by Rohingya militants on Myanmar security forces, but made scant reference to the atrocities that were still being committed by the Burmese military. 

As for sanctions on the generals who had ordered the massacres, there were none. When Peter Oborne conducted an investigation for Byline Times into the British reaction to the massacres, he asked whether Johnson’s foreign office had summoned the Myanmar ambassador to the FCDO during the crisis. The FCDO said this had happened. The FCDO claim that the ambassador was summoned turned out on inspection to be false. The FCDO later apologised for what it called an “inadvertent” mistake. 

Verdict

Doubtless by chance, this inadvertent error had the effect of protecting the reputation of Boris Johnson. 

When we put this to the Foreign Office, their spokesperson said: ​​“These claims are wrong and without merit. The FCDO responds in a truthful and transparent way to all media, respecting their role in public scrutiny.”

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