Following a request from Daw Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition in the Burmese Parliament, the Speaker of the House of Commons Rt Hon John Bercow MP led a parliamentary delegation to Burma which included Sir Malcolm Bruce MP, Fiona Bruce MP, two Officers of the House and me. We returned on Monday 4th August 2013.
Today, on the streets of Rangoon, 88 Generation marched to remember those who lost their lives in the 8888 protests which laid the foundation for change and the return of Daw Suu Kyi to Burma. At our meeting with the current members of the 88 Generation last week, they said that while some were returning from exile, those living there face the same problems of arrest and their court hearings being adjourned many times which leaves them unable to work. But they are determined that change to full democracy will continue.
On the same day we met representatives from all the major faiths who responded positively to my suggestion for a joint statement every time there was ethnic violence. If the leaders of all the faiths condemn violence in the name of religion, they will send a powerful message.
At a later meeting, sitting side by side and opposite our delegation were the representatives from the Rohingya and the Rakhine. The tension at this meeting was palpable as the Rakhine refused to recognize the Rohingya, calling them Bengal. The Rohingya can trace their families' presence in Burma back through generations and should be part of Burma's pluralistic democracy.
In Mon State we met with an MP who was elected in 1990 and promptly jailed. And visiting a school and Legal Aid Centre we were photographed by the military, no doubt to intimidate our gracious hosts until Mr Speaker asked them to leave.
Daw Suu Kyi and the new MPs asked for help in becoming good parliamentarians. It was moving to see Daw Suu Kyi at her place in Parliament. With the block vote of the Army, in uniform and in their section, the situation in Burma risks stalling unless there is a change in the Constitution.
At our meeting with the President Thein Sein and the Speakers of the Lower and Upper House, we raised the issue of the political prisoners, the establishment of an office for the UN Commissioner for Human Rights and the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief .
An MP from Kachin State said that despite the ceasefire people could not return to their villages because of the prevalence of landmines. They need international help to clear this. In the meantime Daw Bawk Ja a political activist was detained 2 days before our delegation arrived in Burma. Her crime was to protest against the landgrabbing of 200,000 acres in Kachin State by Htay Myint and his company Yuzana.
From the young people who are energised by the changes to the new 88 Generation activists, Daw Suu and other parliamentarians, Burma deserves a 1998 Good Friday Agreement (Northern Ireland) or the 1979 Lancaster House Agreement ( Zimbabwe) and a new Panglong Conference to resolve the ethnic groups' call for recognition in a united Burma.
Burma is on the road to democracy. With their strength and humanity, the Burmese people deserve to succeed.