Page last updated at 17:51 GMT, Monday, 14 January 2013

Minister: Burma sanctions 'could be re-instated' amid violence

Sanctions against Burma could be reinstated amid reports of civilians being killed in an offensive by the Burmese military against a rebel stronghold, a Foreign Office Minister has said.

EU sanctions against Burma were suspended in 2012 in response to the political reforms made by the government in Rangoon.

But Alistair Burt said the upsurge in violence could lead to the move being reconsidered, as he addressed MPs on 14 January 2013.

He was responding to an urgent question on the subject by Labour MP Valerie Vaz, who described the latest attacks as "unprovoked".

Kachin rebels say shells fired by the Burmese military at their stronghold of Laiza has killed three civilians.

The deaths are the first reported in the town since since the Burmese army began a new offensive last month, after a 17-year truce with the rebels ended in mid-2011.

Earlier this month, the government acknowledged that the military had carried out air attacks.

It said they were aimed at rebels who tried to block military supply routes.

Mr Burt said sanctions were due to be considered by the EU Foreign Affairs Council in April.

"Whether or not the Foreign Affairs Council in April moves to lift rather than suspend will all depend on the progress which Burma is making in relation to the challenges which have been set it in relation to dealing with ethnic conflict and the political process.

"I don't doubt for a moment that the Burmese government is well aware of the conditions that are likely to attach to any further progress in relation to sanctions," he said.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced since the conflict reignited - some have fled to China's Yunan province only to be forced back.

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