Thursday, 17 June 2021

How the military coup affects Myanmar diaspora communities in Australia

Source ABC, 6 June

The military coup in Myanmar has profoundly affected Australian Myanmar communities — from the young to the elders, many are suffering from anxiety, depression, anger, and emotional stress as they witness events unfold and try to keep in contact with friends and family still trapped in the country. According to 2016 census data, there are over 32,000 people born in Myanmar living in Australia, and many more among the second-generation who belong to the Myanmar diaspora.

Initially, the diaspora was apprehensive but quiet because they remained steadily informed about the tactics being used by Myanmar's military to intimidate, subdue, and attack civilians. Unlike the student uprising in 1988, the people are staying connected — thanks, in large part, to social media. Because of the high levels of connectivity among Myanmar's population, the military tactics deployed have not been as effective in consolidating the rule of this unelected military regime.

Little more than a month after the coup, with no sign of political progress and the ongoing detention of the democratically elected government, a new uprising initiated by the Gen-Z quickly spread across the country — from Myanmar's most populated cities to its rural corners, there continue to be daily protests staged against the coup. Thousands of workers, including health workers, public servants and others organised strikes and now face an uncertain future without jobs and income.

But now, the country has plunged into a full-fledged civil war. Renewed fighting has broken out between the civilian defence force and the military security apparatus in Chin state, Kachin state, Karenni (Kayah) state, and the Sagaing region. The civilian defence forces are determined to protect the people from brutal torture, arbitrary arrest, and the murder of innocent citizens across Myanmar.

With this outbreak of violence and seeing pictures of dead civilians, the fear among the Myanmar diaspora in Australia is palpable. Every day, they hear stories of people they know imprisoned, wounded or killed. Intermittently and without warning, communications in and out of the country are cut-off by the military, causing heightened levels of anxiety about what is going on inside. Then there are the reports of both communication and water supplies being cut off in Mindat in Chin state and the displacement of thousands of civilians. This leads to a pervasive fear over what the military junta might do next, what new level of violence and oppression to which they might descend.

We asked members of the Chin community in Australia how they felt about the events unfolding in their homeland. Many reported that they were experiencing a loss of appetite and weight loss. They also described some of the physical ramifications of the emotional stress and anxiety. Some described tensions within their families about the situation and what everyone should do about it; others worried about their productivity at work, and what this might mean for their already precarious jobs. One of the community leaders noted that the lack of Australian government response to the situation in Myanmar made him sick and he did not understand why other democratic nations were so muted in their condemnation of the junta and its unrestrained violence against its own civilians.

The lack of any substantive response on the part of the Australian government was a major concern for many Myanmar diaspora groups. Australia is clearly an outlier in this respect, as evidenced by their unwillingness to impose further sanctions — unlike the EU, the United States, Canada, and the UK. Foreign Minister Marise Payne simply observed before a Senate hearing that "no countries in Australia's region have taken such measures". This is puzzling to many observers, not least because sanctions were imposed following the 1990 coup and after a 2018 United Nations fact finding mission to Myanmar documented human rights abuses. Members of the diaspora are also disappointed by the lack of engagement by the government with them, as well as the lack of meaningful action to help their relations and friends.

The people of Myanmar are also losing faith in the international community, as we continue to see the military bomb civilians in many parts of the country, including the unconfirmed use of chemical weapons, along with fighter jetsattack helicopters, and heavy artillery.

Most people in Myanmar have largely given up hope of an outside intervention, and civilians have resorted to taking up homemade weapons to defend themselves against military take-over. The people of the Australian Myanmar diaspora sympathise with their struggle, but they feel their hands are tied. "We can only help them by donating some money to feed those running away from town and hiding in the jungles, to buy medical supplies and basic essentials for the use of children and women." In the diaspora many listen helplessly to anguished voices of their relatives. This helplessness is turning into hopelessness and despair.

For those from Chin state who live in Australia, it has been heart-breaking to watch the gains and development that took place in the region be destroyed. For decades, the military subjugated the Chin, seizing vast parcels of land, destroying Christian symbols, and forcing many to become porters, carrying heavy supplies across the mountains. The last 10 years saw real progress in Chin state with peace allowing investment to slowly trickle into this mountainous and impoverished state. The national civilian government included a Chin Vice President, Henry Van Thio, who made development in his home state a priority. Roads were upgraded and built; a new airport opened only last year, making the region more accessible. There was a sense of optimism for the future as some refugees began to return to Chin state and Sagaing region, spurring economic investment and building new lives in their homelands.

The recent return to fighting has had a devastating effect on Chin communities everywhere, including in Australia. Everyone has family, kin, and friends there and they know that some will have to sacrifice their lives in this fight. This is what is causing such anxiety and emotional trauma nights. The military coup has forced us all to struggle anew to find any hope for a future free from discrimination and persecution.

For now, the diaspora remains active in raising awareness, holding regular protests in major Australian cities, advocating our cause to Australian politicians, and raising funds for the thousands who have heroically taken strike action or have been displaced by the fighting. The role of the diaspora is crucial in finding a way out of the current impasse and diaspora engagement with their homelands is as important as the need for the Australian government to engage with the diaspora here and now.

Therefore, we call upon the Australian government:

  • to impose targeted sanctions on the military leaders who staged the Myanmar coup and members of the illegitimate cabinet;
  • to support the National Unity Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and civil society groups engaged in the defence of the constitutional order;
  • to engage with the diaspora to enhance mutual understanding of the situation in Myanmar and its effect on the Myanmar diaspora in Australia.

All of us can help keep this issue at the forefront of the government's and public's mind. In the absence of any material support from the international community so far, we appeal to everyone to attend rallies, voice your support for urgent action to your elected officials, and support the thousands of workers and public servants who continue to strike.

Simon Sang Hre is Executive Director of Australia Chin Communities Council.

Gerhard Hoffstaedter is Associate Professor in the School of Social Science at the University of Queensland.

Is Myanmar heading for a civil war as armed groups target junta?

Source TRT, 1 June

Myanmar's National Unity Government, a body claiming to be the legitimate administration, is warning the country is on the brink of civil war. According to a former UN special envoy, at least 58 armed groups have formed since the military coup in February. Ronan Lee from Queen Mary University Law School weighs in.

watch link (here)

The real crimes of Myanmar's Suu Kyi and the farce of her trial

Source AA, 28 May
OPINION - The real crimes of Myanmar's Suu Kyi and the farce of her trial

The author is coordinator of the UK-based Free Rohingya Coalition, general secretary of Forces of Renewal Southeast Asia, and a fellow of the Genocide Documentation Center in Cambodia


This past Monday, the State Administration Council of Myanmar, the military regime, aired on state TV the still images of the detained National League for Democracy (NLD) leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, as she appeared in a closed-door courtroom, sitting alongside her two NLD deputies, in the dock.

There is absolutely no question about the farcical nature of this trial of the deposed Myanmar state counselor by the regime that has committed -- and continues to commit -- all the gravest crimes in international law, as the UN International Independent Fact-Finding Mission (2016-18) had emphatically noted. Among the charges against her are the illegal import and possession of walkie-talkies for her security details, breaking the COVID-19 regulations, corruption and most ominously, breaking the State Official Secrets Act.

Alas, the irony should not be lost that the State Official Secrets Act was the charge, Suu Kyi herself, used to defend the arrest and prosecution of Wa Lon and Kyaw Soe Oo, the two Burmese and Rakhine journalists with Reuters, who attempted to report on the summary execution of 10 Rohingya villagers in the midst of the genocidal purge of over 740,000 Rohingya. Suu Kyi told the world that her government was taking legal action against the duo, not because they were journalists doing their job, but because they revealed what was considered state secrets. The two went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for their investigative reporting and were released by Suu Kyi's government under worldwide pressure.

The images of Suu Kyi sitting in the dock had been imagined by others -- but not on trumped-up charges or at a Kangaroo court, but on Myanmar's international state crimes for which the Burmese leader does bear responsibility.

"I want to be a judge in your trial, Aung San Suu Kyi," angrily declared Shirin Ebadi, the renowned UK-based human rights defender from Iran.

The occasion was the international conference on Myanmar genocide held at the French National Assembly, the parliament, in Paris. Ebadi's anger at Suu Kyi's indifference to the plight of the genocide victims in Bangladesh refugee camps was palpable for those of us in the hall, when she delivered the keynote address before the audience made up of Rohingya refugees, Speaker of the National Parliament of Bangladesh Shirin Sharmin Chaudury, French parliamentarians, and international activists and scholars.

As the main founder of the Nobel Women's Group, Ebadi knew and met, her "Sister Laureate" at the group's meeting of which Suu Kyi was a very much welcome member. Ebadi and other laureates, such as Northern Irish peace activist Mairead Maguire and American political activist Jodi Williams actively campaigned for Suu Kyi's freedom during the 15 years of on-and-off house arrests.

Of course, the Iranian had in mind Suu Kyi's complicity in the atrocity crimes committed against Rohingya by the latter's partners in power, the Burmese military generals. In their closed-door meeting with the Burmese sister that took place in New York City in 2013, the American laureate and anti-landmine campaigner, Williams, attempted to raise her concerns about the persecution of the Rohingya, and Suu Kyi's stance -- denial of the gravest crime of genocide and the defense of the perpetrating military.

Suu Kyi shot down the conversation instantly, in a callous tone, "What about them?" according to a friend of mine who was at the meeting and witnessed the exchange.

Several years later, Sir Geoffrey Nice, the prosecutor in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic in the International Criminal Tribunal on the former Yugoslavia, co-authored an op-ed in Foreign Policy, A Genocide in the Making, where he, and co-author, Francis Wade, wrote: "Suu Kyi [as the nation's popularly mandated leader] should know that inactivity in the face of genocidal actions can carry moral, legal, and even criminal responsibility."

Yanghee Lee, the former special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar (2014-2020), who looked to Suu Kyi as an inspirational Asian woman icon, told UK's Channel Four News, emphatically, that the Myanmar state counsellor should face justice at the International Criminal Court, or any other ad hoc international UN tribunal, for the official role she played in the Myanmar genocide. Lee told me that the Nobel laureate pointedly unveiled a threat of entry visa refusal when they last met, face-to-face, in Suu Kyi's office in Naypyidaw: "[Y]ou know, if you keep pushing this UN [Human Rights-Up-Front] line, you won't be able to come here again."

The Myanmar laureate's culpability in the state's international crimes by her countless genocide denials on numerous occasions, both in opposition and in office -- and her hostilities toward UN human rights bodies and local human rights defenders and journalists, has been amply noted and roundly condemned worldwide, thanks to the frontpage coverage by the mass media, that turned on the very icon which it helped manufacture, over a few decades.

Against this backdrop, it is deeply troubling that the parallel government, named the National Unity Government (NUG), continues to keep Suu Kyi as its patron-saint, in absentia.

Myanmar's anti-coup public wildly supports and holds unrealistic expectations of NUG as the sole legitimate body that will seek world recognition, material and financial support from states and non-state actors and communities. Besides Suu Kyi, NUG has lesser mortals whose deeds and words were documented to be a part and parcel of the military-led genocidal process of 2016 and 2017, who now play leading roles, either officially, as Cabinet members, or from behind-the-scenes.

Perhaps most troubling of all, some among the old NLD card-carrying rank and file members, have begun to undertake fanatical and violent acts against anyone who opposes both the murderous coup regime, and the old NLD leaders and anti-Rohingya officials and activists, sitting on the front bench of the NUG. On May 25, one anti-genocide and anti-NLD/NUG Myanmar activist named Bhone Pyi Zone Min became the first casualty of what looks like a hate crime: in his sleep, he was stabbed seven times to death by a fanatical NLD/NUG follower, according to his friends who posted the details of the motive and the kill.

The Myanmar Spring, or New Revolution, led on the streets by Generation Z, or the youth of Myanmar, is ultimately aimed not simply at restoring the tyranny of the racist majority with Suu Kyi as the Mother of the Nation, but to rebuild a new, inclusive society, where Rohingya too, will have their full and equal citizenship.

The deeds and words of the NUG and its supporters, who continue to act as if they are old wine in a new bottle, do not bode well for either the social revolution for an inclusive society, or the violent political revolution, with the objective of totally dismantling the dictatorship, including its instrument of terror -- the armed forces.

Sunday, 23 May 2021

Purge genocide culprits from democratic leadership: Myanmar

Source AA, 8 May

Hesitating to take stand against Rohingya genocide is costing $1B to National Unity Government and blocks its global recognition

The author is coordinator of the UK-based Free Rohingya Coalition, general secretary of Forces of Renewal Southeast Asia, and a fellow of the Genocide Documentation Center in Cambodia

It was excruciatingly painful for me to watch the four-minute question and answer between US Congressman Brad Sherman and Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar's pro-democracy permanent representative to the UN during the virtual hearing, entitled the Unfolding Crisis in Burma hosted by US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs on May 4.

Excruciating because I as a Myanmar activist in exile so wanted the National Unity Government (NUG) – for which the Myanmar envoy was speaking in the hearing – to gain political recognition as the true representative of the people of Myanmar from one of the world's most influential legislatures, and yet the NUG representative failed spectacularly to make the case on behalf of the 54 million people.

Specifically, Congressman Ben Sherman, a member of the host sub-committee – and his colleagues – wanted assurances that the NUG has a clearly defined policy of inclusion about Rohingya's right to nationality and the restoration of equal and full citizenship. Rohingya were Myanmar people residing in Arakan or Rakhine state whose citizenship was stripped off in different phases, both legally and violently, by successive Myanmar governments since the late 1970s.

Instead of addressing the congressional concerns satisfactorily, the Burmese career-diplomat fumbled. He repeated the same tired national mantra of verifying Rohingyas for citizenship eligibility in accord with the 1982 Citizenship Act, a legal instrument designed by the military dictatorship of General Ne Win to specifically exclude and dis-entitle Rohingyas from full and equal citizenship.

The result was catastrophic. Congressman Sherman took to Twitter and wrote: "See my questioning of Burma/Myanmar dissent @UN Amb. Kyaw Moe Tun. He speaks eloquently against the coup, but like many democracy advocates from Burma gives disappointing answers regarding #Rohingyas."

Sherman's colleague on the sub-committee Congressman Ted Lieu (Democrat from California with a large social media following) chimed in with his disapproval of the NUG's non-committal approach to the genocide survivors.

"UN found the prior government in Myanmar engaged in the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya with the genocidal intent. An estimated over 25,000 dead and 18,000 women and girls were raped. The new National Unity Government does not include any Rohingya. We cannot support it until that is changed," he wrote on Twitter.

Costly affair

This is an enormously costly failure which many Burmese at home and in the diaspora watched live. Politically and financially, it has in effect cost the country's textbook revolutionary movement aimed at ending not just reversing the coup of Feb. 1, but 60-years of the military's stranglehold on politics, society, and economy.

Besides the congressional committee's refusal to recognize the NUG as the true representative of Myanmar, the NUG ambassador's blunder made it impossible to hope for the release of $1 billion Myanmar government funds which US President Joe Biden froze with an executive order in the US banking. The presidential move was aimed at depriving the military regime access to funds that have slaughtered over 750 unarmed citizens, detained over 4,000 activists, jailed four-dozen journalists, and forcibly abducted an unknown number of people. This is the $1 billion that could be released to the NUG to address the financial needs of the anti-coup and pro-democracy movement.

For the last three months since the civil disobedience movement was initiated by doctors and nurses in government hospitals, hundreds of thousands of state employees across various ministries – such as transport, telecommunications, public health, finance, education, and so on have forgone their salaries, chose to be evicted from government housing and embraced economic hardship. They are in dire need of material support.

In addition, there is a massive need for humanitarian assistance as the country has seen a sharp increase in the number of refugees from Karen, Shan, Chin, Mon, Kachin, Taang, and other minority communities who are feeling – as I write – daily and nightly airstrikes and heavy artillery fire by Myanmar coup regime. The low-intensity civil war since the coup took place on Feb. 1 has morphed into an all-out conflict between the Burmese military and the multi-ethnic society at large, including those in the formerly cease-fire zones of Western, Northern, and Eastern Myanmar.

Also, the release of $1 billion Myanmar government funds and the political recognition by the US could very significantly enable the NUG to properly support the open-aim of building and forming a people's defense force. Judging from the social media sites and public discussions Myanmar's public opinion is overwhelmingly for defeating and dismantling the Tatmadaw, or the national armed forces as it has been terrorizing the entire civilian population, with blanket impunity.

Formation of self-defense force

Consequently, the Committee Representing Pyi Htaungsu (Parliament) or CRPH has openly invoked the (universal) right to self-defense while the NUG has announced the formation of an organized self-defense force called People's Defence Force – May 5 as the alternative to "the terrorist military," as Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun put it.

To his credit, Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun made historic contributions to the cause of Myanmar's democratic struggle against the terrorist military which he rightly characterized as "the existential threat" to the country and her people, when he gave a principled and defiant virtual address to the UN General Assembly on Feb. 26.

But the legacy of the Myanmar genocide cannot be shoved under the rug for the sake of majoritarian democratic struggle.

He and the NUG as the interim government with widespread popular mandate needs to come to terms with the fact that the National League for Democracy government led by Aung San Suu Kyi, now in detention for three months, along with her puppet President Win Myint, was verifiably complicit in the country's genocide.

Therefore, the NUG and the Committee Representing Myanmar parliament (CRPH) – all in exile or Myanmar regions under the control of ethnic armed organizations – need to make a clean and radical break from the NLD leadership's dishonorable – and some would say, criminal past, as far as the international law. They need to do so fast as "time is of the essence".

Painfully, the old guards in the NLD who co-founded and led the NLD since its founding in 1989 have proven themselves to be anti-Rohingya racists. As to be expected, virtually every important NLD leader, from Suu Kyi and Vice-Chairperson Tin Oo to successive NLD spokespersons and lawyers, contributed to the poisoning of Burmese public mind with their public and official exclusionary sentiments and views regarding Rohingyas as an integral ethnic community of the Union of Burma or Myanmar.

Equally important, the iconic 8.8.88 generation leaders of the student uprisings who now drum up popular support for the National Unity Government, for instance, Min Ko Naing, were involved in identity-destruction of the Rohingya as a group.

NLD vice chairperson's dubious credentials

According to his two-volume autobiography, NLD Vice-Chairperson Tin Oo, a retired general led the earliest wave of deportation – though small in number – of the undocumented Bengali (then East Pakistanis) and Rohingya across the borders into East Pakistan in the late 1950s. NLD leader was then a Lt-Colonel with the rank of the regional commander of All Rakhine Troops based in Sittwe.

After the first well-reported bouts of organized violence against Rohingyas broke out in June and October 2012, the NLD vice-chair went on to publicly deny the ethnic identity of Rohingyas on a Burmese language service of the Radio Free Asia, an official broadcaster for the US government.

On her part, Suu Kyi officially asked the UN and other external actors active in Myanmar affairs not to use the term Rohingyas because it was "an emotive term" – (as opposed to a real and objective ethnicity!)

Genocides are identity-based group destructions – including mass killings and mass deportation and displacement. NLD leadership – and its denialist stance that Myanmar military was not committing genocide – from the brazen denial of Rohingya identity and the group's basic right to self-identify to the final systematic destruction of Rohingya community's physical existence, sustained through chronic waves of terror and violence.

In what my scholar colleague Natalie Brinham and I call "the slow-burning genocide", Myanmar military has long used the state's judiciary, mass media, education, immigration, and religious affairs ministries, as well as the national legislature, both the rubber-stamp parliament of the old dictatorship and the semi-democratic legislature since 2010.

When the NLD assumed state power in 2015, its leadership took the reins of both the executive branch – save the three-security-related ministries – and all state and national legislatures. In power, the NLD leaders used the commanding heights to deny Myanmar's long-standing exclusionary policies with the genocidal intent with regards to Rohingyas as a group and defend the military's vicious campaign of terror in 2016 and 2017.

Defending genocide

At the International Court of Justice in December 2019, both Suu Kyi as foreign minister and state counselor, and Kyaw Tint Swe, minister in charge of state counselor's office acted as agents in the historic Gambia vs Myanmar genocide case.

Not only did Agent Aung San Suu Kyi officially deny the well-documented allegations of the genocidal purge of Rohingyas in 2016 and 2017, including mass rape and slaughter, she also mis-framed the premeditated destruction of the unarmed Rohingya civilian population in nearly 400-villages as simply a case of a sovereign state, defending itself from "terrorist attacks" by Rohingya militants.

Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun was himself very much involved in the NLD government's genocide denial. In September 2018, he was the highest-ranking Myanmar representative to the Human Rights Council who questioned and dismissed the damning findings of the UN International Independent Fact-Finding Mission, which became the main evidentiary base for Gambia's genocide case at the ICJ.

The presence of the old NLD executives in the new National Unity Government whose active complicity in the genocide – for instance, Dr. Win Myat Aye – is an insult to the injury of Rohingya victims. It is also a direct affront to many Burmese who have woken up to the fact that they have been brainwashed and lied about the genocidal persecution of one of Myanmar's integral ethnic communities.

NUG and CRPH are providing Myanmar's Spring Revolution the much-needed political and policy leadership, and have taken many bold and principled steps, for instance, the abolition of the military's anti-democratic Constitution of 2008.

The two decisive steps towards rectifying the past genocidal wrongs would be to first, remove the old NLD executives whose complicity is indefensible and inexcusable and second, scrap the 1982 Citizenship Act – created as the legal instrument of genocidal exclusion which targeted Rohingyas population albeit in a coded way.

It would be a great tragedy for the NUG – and more importantly, Myanmar's unfolding revolution – if NUG allows NLD leadership's past genocide complicity to become the revolution's Achilles' heel. As a revolutionary front, NUG must make bold and principled decisions.

* Opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency.

Friday, 30 April 2021

The plight of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia

Source Foresea, 30 April

"It's from the frying pan of wars and genocide at home, into the flaming fire of an off-shore refugee-prison complex in Australia". FORSEA hosted a virtual in-depth discussion on how a democratic state such as Australia has adopted and institutionalized an anti-refugee policy since around 2001.

Both Labour and Liberal governments in Canberra have, with a short interregnum of PM Kevin Rudd's government, pursued progressively war-like policies towards what the Australia media and politicians dehumanizingly call "the boat people", or the "un-authorized maritime arrivals".

These terms reek Australia's white racist connotations as virtually all "unauthorized maritime arrivals", as refuge-seekers in the waters and shores of Australia are brown and black peoples fleeing wars, ethnic persecution, genocide and terrorism in Africa, Myanmar, the Middle East and so on.

As a matter of fact, Tony Abbot, ex-Prime Minister of Australia, and now Special Trade Adviser to Britain's Brexit Tory Government of Boris Johnson, brazenly declared "war" on refuge-seekers around 2013, having mobilized Australian Navy against this most vulnerable population, who knocked on Australia's door, half-starved, traumatized and in desperate need of humanitarian support.

Against this backdrop, Canberra had pioneered a system of offshore processing refuge-seekers in cash-strapped South Pacific island countries such as Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Nauru, with the help of private global security companies such as G4S and homegrown Aussie companies (for instance, CANSTRUCT).

FORSEA's guests Daniel Taylor and Noeline Balasanthian Harendren, the two Australian legal practitioners from the Sydney West Legal firm are dedicated refugee rights lawyers who fight Australia's inhuman policies and practices whereby people who have fled genocide and torture are once again dehumanized, demonized, criminalized and locked up for no probable cause. (This revictimization is carried out by the democratic state of Australia which speaks out on human rights issues at the United Nations Human Rights Council.)

The two lawyers were joined by Ahmad Hakim, former Iranian Kurdish refugee who now runs a refugee rights campaign group out of Melbourne and Imran, a former Rohingya refugee who was transported to the infamous Manus Island "processing detention centre" where he was locked up for 5 years, despite his refugee status in Australia as recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

Imran shared his first-hand horrific story of having been forced to live with 50 other men in one packed room without a shred of privacy for 5 years. He showed pictures of what in effect was a sub-human degraded existence in the Australian-run refugee detention centre.

Hakim relayed a verified account of a Kurdish detainee who had been severely attacked during detention at "the processing centre" in PNG: private security guards from the Australian prison-complex used zinc wire to cut the throat of Mohammad – not his real name – and coerced a horrified secretarial staff to fix the eyewitness account for the criminal act: the detainee had attempted to escape the refugee detention centre by climbing on the barb-wire fence, and by accident injured himself. Hakim showed the pictures of the victim – still in Australian captivity – with fresh wounds around his neck, front and back.

Based on the testimonies she gathered from her detainee clients – some of whom are able to speak to her virtually from their detention – Noeline painted a horrendous picture of how women, children and men are typically subjected to numerous acts of what could only be called barbarism – sodomy, rape, torture, violence, and so on. Female detainees are watched on CCTV round the clock, be they on the toilet or in the shower or in bed. Some rape victims attempted suicide resorting to all kinds of creative self-harm, including burning oneself.

Daniel Taylor talked of how inhuman and criminal – "Fascist totalitarian", in his word – Australian state has been towards asylum-seekers and refugees and went on to explain the lucrative nature of asylum processing centres – for all those who are involved – host-partner regimes in PNG and Nauru, private companies and locals. As a matter of fact, these pioneering offshore prison-complexes are also a multi-billion-dollar business for those involved in hosting and/or managing them. The Brisbane-based corporation CANSTRUCT was paid $1.5 billion for a 5-year prison management complex with additional several hundred million, according to an investigative report by the Guardian.

Hakim and Imran explained that Australian authorities have misinformed the local populations of PNG and Nauru that several thousand detainees in their local facilities are "terrorists". Because many are from war-torn Muslim Middle East, the Australian narrative about the detainees resonates with the widespread Islamophobia among the locals who work in these refugee processing detention centres as security guard, low level staff, and so on. Some white Australian off-shore prison staff have been spotted in Far Right rallies in Australia, according to the refugee rights campaigner Hakim.

The former refugee-cum-refugee-rights advocate Hakim observed that talking and active tough on brown and black refugees and/or asylum-seekers has been a great election winner for white Australian politicians. For such racist tough-talk has a lot of buy-ins with the largely Islamophobic Australian public who are also ill- or mal-informed about the vulnerability, rights and needs of refugees who have fled large scale misery at home. Painfully, these refugees have only jumped from the frying pan into the flaming fire of anti-refugee Australia.


Thursday, 22 April 2021

Australia’s Government Is Refusing to Support Myanmar’s Anti-Coup Movement

Source Jacobin

For Australia's conservative government, keeping Myanmar open for businesses is more important than justice for massacred anti-coup protesters.

Protesters run from security forces during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon's Thaketa township on March 19, 2021. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

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In February, Myanmar's military, the Tatmadaw, took back the little power they had ceded to Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD). Since then, the world has watched in horror as Myanmar's authorities have suppressed popular resistance. So far, over 550 people have been killed and the scale of the crackdown is escalating.

Despite the brutality, the people of Myanmar are resisting, led by the country's labor movement and student activists. Mass meetings, strike committees, and widespread protests have given us a tantalizing glimpse of what a democratic Myanmar might look like.

Australian authorities have added their voices to the international condemnation of the crackdown, making it seem as if they have nothing to do with the Tatmadaw and its actions. But this could not be further from the truth. Just as Australia's rulers have supported repressive regimes in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, they are intimately involved with Myanmar's military ruling class.

Opening Myanmar for Business

In 2010, Myanmar's ruling junta released NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest after sixteen years of imprisonment. Her release appeared to symbolize a new era of power-sharing between the junta and the NLD. To many in the West, it was a landmark moment in Myanmar's transition towards democracy. In the Australian parliament, Josh Frydenberg called on Australia to aid this transition. This would involve, he suggested, "a policy of engagement with the Burmese hierarchy."

Before long, it became clear that Western praise for Myanmar's apparent transition to democracy was premature. Myanmar's constitution still enshrined the junta's power. For its part, after winning the 2015 elections, the NLD largely preserved the existing balance of power. For example, the NLD did little to challenge repressive laws or push for the release of imprisoned student activists.

Kyaw Ko Ko, former head of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions, has argued that the NLD's inaction while in office amounts to complicity:

If students and the people are still being oppressed by those who would rather use these laws than repeal them, then it is no better than what we went through under the military regime.

The NLD's attempts at reform were at best insufficient and at worst disingenuous. Aung San Suu Kyi's approach to government was profoundly authoritarian and in line with neoliberal economic principles. Suu Kyi consistently called for partnership with the generals. She and her party shunned democratic popular movements such as the mass protests by farmers for land rights in the face of new resource-extraction laws.

Profits from resource extraction in Myanmar have enriched military elites. In 2015, Global Witness revealed that the military and drug lords largely controlled Myanmar's $31 billion jade industry, with very little of its massive profits benefiting ordinary people.

"Engaging With the Hierarchy"

While all of this was going on, Australian businesses saw an opportunity to invest in Myanmar's mining industry. The junta's liberalization of trade opened the door. Around fifty Australian firms now operate in Myanmar, including ANZ Bank, BlueScope, and Woodside Energy.

Woodside alone has invested half a billion dollars through holding companies in Singapore. The Australian Trade and Investment Commission has supported these ventures, eagerly touting Myanmar's natural resource "endowments" and praising deregulation as a positive step while raising mild concerns about the rule of law.

In 2013, Australia's official "engagement with the Burmese hierarchy" broadened to include military assistance to the Tatmadaw. In 2014, Tony Abbott's Liberal government appointed Royal Australian Navy captain John Dudley as a resident military attaché in Rangoon. In 2015, Australia added Myanmar to the Defence Cooperation Program, under which Australian personnel trained Tatmadaw officers in UN peacekeeping methods.

In 2016, the Australian Federal Police signed a pact with the Myanmar Police Force — which is incorporated within the Tatmadaw — to boost operational coordination and "capacity building" in response to international crime. The Australian government justified this as a move that would advance democratization by promoting "professionalism and adherence to international laws." Andrew Selth of Griffith University and John Blaxland, a former military attaché to Thailand and Myanmar, have argued that a partnership between Australian personnel and Burmese officers would make for a more open-minded Tatmadaw leadership.

Burmese Australians were not so optimistic. Human rights activist Cheery Zahau sounded the alarm over continued abuses in Myanmar, noting that the Junta's respect for human rights was contracting, not increasing:

Although there are a lot of exciting reforms happening in Rangoon and in Naypyidaw, in ethnic areas it's not getting better. . . . In Kachin states, in Shan states we see a lot of human rights violations [still] happening, including torture, including landmine issues.

Amid the fanfare that accompanied Myanmar president Thein Sein's visit to Australia, Rohingya refugee Mohammed Anwar said: "We are losing more rights, we are suffering more, and we are at the verge of . . . losing our existence." Events in 2017 proved that those concerns were well-founded.

The Rohingya Genocide

Myanmar is home to many minorities who have suffered long-term persecution at the hands of the government, responding sporadically with armed resistance. In late 2016, the Tatmadaw began a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people in Rakhine State, in Myanmar's west. The junta and nationalist Buddhists depict the Muslim Rohingya minority as invading Bengalis who have settled in Rakhine.

Following an attack on police allegedly carried out by Rohingya insurgents, the Tatmadaw unleashed a campaign of violence throughout Rohingya villages in Rakhine State. The International Crisis Group summarized the nature of this campaign, drawing on UN reports:

Widespread, unlawful killings by the security forces and vigilantes, including several massacres; rape and other forms of sexual violence against women and children; the widespread, systematic, pre-planned burning of tens of thousands of Rohingya homes and other structures by the military, BGP (Border Guard Police) and vigilantes across northern Rakhine State.

As they forcibly drove the Rohingya people out of Myanmar, Tatmadaw soldiers were told to "kill all you see, whether children or adults." Associated Press has found evidence of mass graves and bulldozed villages. After a fact-finding mission, UN officials declared that Tatmadaw leaders must face charges for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. By 2017, nearly a million exiled Rohingya were living in the world's largest refugee camp in neighboring Bangladesh.

The Tatmadaw claimed that an internal investigation had cleared security forces of any wrongdoing. Other Burmese leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi, downplayed the severity of the violence. Even when confronted with grisly details of the Tatmadaw's actions in Rakhine at the International Court of Justice in 2019, Suu Kyi still continued to dispute claims of genocidal intent by the military.

A Blind Eye

As these crimes came to light, other nations ended their own military assistance to the Tatmadaw. Amnesty International, among other groups, called on Australia to follow suit. However, the Australian government refused to do so, instead opting to impose limited sanctions.

John Blaxland defended the assistance program by arguing that Australia could play the role of "honest broker" in the crisis. He claimed that Australia's continued support for the Tatmadaw was the only available avenue to influence change. Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, took a scathing view of this response, calling it a "total abandonment of human rights" and "literally whistling past the graveyard."

Yadanar Maung, a spokesperson for Justice For Myanmar, was also appalled by Australia's continued involvement:

It is shocking that Australia is collaborating with military training facilities and seemingly condoning their approach to law, while there is extensive evidence that the graduates go on to commit atrocities. . . . Instead of colluding with perpetrators of genocide, we call on Australia to recognize that genocide took place, join proceedings at the International Court of Justice, and sanction the Myanmar military and their businesses.

Meanwhile, in response to a ruling by Papua New Guinea's supreme court, the Australian Border Force has been clearing the Manus Island detention center — which is on Papua New Guinea territory — of asylum seekers. Shockingly, the Australian government offered Rohingya refugees on the island A$25,000 to return to Myanmar, where they will face certain persecution.

Late last year, as Myanmar's elections loomed, the appalling conditions for the Rohingya remained unresolved. But so far as Australian business leaders were concerned, the Rohingya genocide was merely a setback. John Lamb of the Australian company Myanmar Metals was clearly anxious to continue extracting Myanmar's immense reserves of zinc, lead, and silver. He blandly described the situation of the Rohingya as a "terrible tragedy" and an "enormous setback":

The world's reaction was entirely justified, and I think a lesson has been learnt. I hope we won't see it again and I don't think we will.

Lamb's confidence was sadly unwarranted.

The February Coup

In the wake of February's coup, as crackdowns on protestors escalated, the Australian government finally ended military assistance and called on the Tatmadaw to respect the Burmese people's right to assembly and expression. Further action was not forthcoming, even as Australia's allies imposed stronger measures. For example, Australia has not placed sanctions on coup leader General Min Aung Hlaing.

Monique Skidmore, an expert on Myanmar, has characterized the Australian response to the Tatmadaw's actions as "very soft." Green and Labor MPs have called for sanctions and for the government to grant asylum to students from Myanmar who are in Australia, as well as to those fleeing repression. So far, the government has only committed to a parliamentary review of sanctions.

Sanctions are a deeply flawed instrument of international relations. Nevertheless, the Australian government's hesitation about deploying such a commonly used tool is telling. Australia's ruling class is far more interested in economic and political stability than economic and political freedom for the people of Myanmar.

With significant private investment at stake, and heightened rivalries between Australia and China in the region, Australian policymakers are very reluctant to take any steps that may threaten the balance of power in Myanmar. As the Australian Financial Review has reported, the government privately worries that further sanctions may push the junta closer to China, while investors fear that escalating civil disobedience will cause threats to foreign businesses.

In contrast, Australia's Burmese community has led spirited solidarity demonstrations and chalked up some victories. For example, Woodside Energy — which came under fire for its involvement in Myanmar — has committed to withdrawing its workers from offshore drilling sites. However, the company has so far refused to make a firm commitment to make its return contingent on the Tatmadaw relinquishing power.

The Australian labor movement could also help pressure Myanmar's ruling class, as it did in similar situations in the past, by organizing solidarity actions targeting firms that are involved in Myanmar, or by obstructing the travel of key leaders and executives.

The Tatmadaw's crackdown on Myanmar's nascent democracy may have unleashed popular forces with the potential transform the country in a much more radical way than seemed possible before. There are also exciting signs of cooperation between the democracy movements in Myanmar, Thailand, and Hong Kong.

While all of this is going on, we should not expect to see Australia's rulers express any meaningful solidarity with the movement beyond tepid calls for an end to violence — let alone lend it material aid. For Australian capitalism, keeping Myanmar open for business is far more important than supporting democracy and human rights.

Protest by all Ethnic groups at Federation Square & Parliament of Melbourne

by Admin, 11 April

First time ever in Australia, people of various ethnic backgrounds gathered in a rally infront of Melbourne Parliament in protest against Military coup in Burma on 11 April 2012.


speeches of MP Peter Khalil (, and , Refugee Action Victoria, Malaysian community..

Rohingya representative from Melbourne, Habib has called Rohingya and ethnic community leaders around the world to unitedly support the CRPH movements..