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Abul Kalam, President of the Swedish Rohingya Association
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Abul Kalam, President of the Swedish Rohingya Association (inset), and the Thankhali refugee camp in Bangladesh on 15 November (background) Credit: Phelan Chatterjee/Sveriges Radio (inset), Munir Uz Zaman/AFP (background)
Foreign Minister Margot Wallström
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Foreign Minister Margot Wallström in parliament. Credit: Pontus Lundahl/TT
(5:36 min)

Swedish Rohingya demand stronger action from Wallström

Published fredag 17 november 2017 kl 13.51

The Swedish Rohingya Association is asking foreign minister Margot Wallström to take strong measures against Burma, as she travels to Bangladesh and Burma this weekend.

Since August, some 600,000 Burmese Rohingya have fled mass killings, torture, gang-rape, arson and infanticide perpetrated by the Burmese military, mostly to Bangladesh. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has called the situation a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing".

I have been to Bangladesh, a lot of people are in refugee camps. My real cousin lost her husband. How can I describe it? Every time I appeal to the world – why is the world not taking action? When will they take action?

Wallström has addressed the issue in the UN and met civil society organisations here in Sweden. On Saturday, she will travel to Bangladesh to visit a Rohingya refugee camp and Burma, to attend an Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) of foreign ministers in the Burmese capital Naypidaw.

The Swedish Rohingya Association are demanding much stronger action. They want Wallström to name the crisis a genocide, introduce a travel ban on senior Burmese officials and block those officials' foreign assets. They also want her to cancel all Swedish non-humanitarian aid to Burma, and withdraw Swedish development officials from the country.

But Wallström told Radio Sweden that this was too much, too soon. Her immediate priority was to get humanitarian assistance to refugees, end the violence and bring accountability to the perpetrators. She denied that attending the ASEM meeting would serve to legitimise the Burmese government.

"We believe in dialogue; this is also a way to exercise pressure on the Burmese government and military. We need to be able to speak to them directly ... We're travelling there the day after tomorrow – I think that will also make an impression. They will see that we prioritise this and [that we] expect action from the Burmese government," she explained.


Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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