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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.

FORSEA



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.

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speeches of MP Peter Khalil (https://www.facebook.com/100001000437429/videos/pcb.4023800427663265/4023794237663884), 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..




Between a refugee camp and a silt island: Rohingyas and the ethics of resettlement

Source ABC, 7 April


Bangladesh has accommodated more than a million Rohingya refugees at a significant cost to its economy. Nevertheless, it now finds itself subject to international condemnation for relocating some Rohingyas to Bhasan Char — a silt island built up through tidal activity over the last twenty years. Even so, Bangladesh has now relocated 14,032 Rohingyas to Bashan Char in an orderly manner. The UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh, Mia Seppo, has recognised the Bangladesh government's investment of USD$350 million to build infrastructure on Bhasan Char, which provides better facilities and infrastructure than those available in the camp at Cox's Bazar.

The move to Bhasan Char is a result of a confluence of factors. The recent military coup has made the repatriation of the Rohingya from Bangladesh to Myanmar almost impossible. Moreover, the devastating fire that broke out in Cox's Bazar on 22 March 2021, which killed fifteen and left 400 still missing, has graphically demonstrated the precariousness of the living conditions of the Rohingya. They are not safe in the camps or in Myanmar, and without means for ensuring a decent and dignified life for themselves, the Rohingyas' future seems very bleak.

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According to our research, an estimated 25,000 people were killed, 19,000 were raped, and 43,000 received gunshot wounds inflicted by security forces under the control of the Myanmar authorities during the Rohingyas' mass exodus to Bangladesh in 2017. Since then, multiple repatriation attempts have failed due to an uncooperative Myanmar government. The Myanmar security forces have now turned their weapons on their own people, killing nearly 538 civilian protesters since the coup on 1 February 2021.

The military junta has written to the Bangladesh government attempting to explain the takeover; it claims that it has "reached out to Rohingyas in Rakhine state, giving Rohingyas confidence for return." Paradoxically, Bangladesh must welcome this letter, for it consistently has reported to have not received any cooperation from the Myanmar government since the first Rohingya repatriation deal was signed on 23 November 2017. But given the fact that it was the military itself which was the perpetrator of the genocidal actions against the Rohingya in the first place, it is reasonable to suspect that the letter is an attempt to deflect criticism levelled against the coup rather than a good faith attempt to assure Rohingyas or multilateral agencies of a safe return.

It is in this context, we believe, that the resettlement of Rohingya to Bhasan Char must be considered. The international condemnation of Bangladesh for their decision to relocate the Rohingya comes despite the international community largely ignoring the plight of both the refugees and Bangladesh — satisfying itself instead with relatively meagre donations, which are themselves drying up due to the economic ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic. No country has offered to accept a single refugee from Cox's Bazar or applied effective pressure on Myanmar to accept returned refugees in a safe and humanitarian way. Meanwhile, the refugee camps have become the most densely populated areas in the world, causing environmental degradation and posing significant health and security risks for Bangladesh and the region.

Bhasan Char island, general view

The housing complex of Bhasan Char island in Noakhali district, Bangladesh, where Rohingya refugees are being relocated. (Photo by K.M. Asad / LightRocket via Getty Images)

In early 2020, we interviewed a sample of 3,613 household heads located in the Cox's Bazar camp about their perspectives on temporary resettlement to Bhasan Char. 8.9 per cent responding that they would be prepared to move, compared to the 91.1 per cent recorded as not willing to move to Bhasan Char. Nevertheless, despite being such a low percentage, 8.9 per cent would be sufficient to meet Bangladesh's target of relocating 100,000 Rohingyas. Among the reasons provided by the questionnaire as potential motivations for the respondents to relocate to Bhasan Char, 87.7 per cent selected better housing, 62.2 per cent family safety, 60.1 freedom of movement, 48.7 better food supply, and 33.3 per cent wanted to avoid exploitation by local people.

By contrast, 67.5 per cent of the respondents who were unwilling to relocate responded that they were concerned about Bhasan Char's climate risk and 64.2 per cent had some concern about the location of the island "in the middle of nowhere". The second most common response, at 64.4 per cent, was the availability of "economic opportunity in the current camp". There are around 10,000 illegal shops in the Cox's Bazar providing Myanmar produce to a significant black market without any license or taxes going back to the government of Bangladesh. Moving the population to Bhasan Char will make it easier for authorities to limit this illegal activity and to enhance local commerce.

Importantly, 28.6 per cent of respondents had been urged not to relocate to Bhasan Char by other Rohingyas, Rohingya militia groups, influential locals; 14.2 per cent said that they had been influenced to remain by NGOs operating in the camps. One must not discount the possibility of an "unholy alliance" between local businesses (drug dealers, human traffickers, money launderers) and NGOs benefiting from the crisis. Additionally, 59.4 per cent of the respondents raised concerns about losing social contacts if they left the world's largest refugee camp and relocated to a smaller community.

Bhasan Char island, close up

Rohingya refugees at the housing complex of Bhasan Char island after they were relocated on 30 December 2020. (Photo by Mohammad Al-Masum Molla / AFP via Getty Images

The Bhasan Char initiative has the potential to become an alternative model for states accommodating unprecedented and unanticipated refugees seeking short- or longer-term temporary security. The ambiguity pertaining to when and how the Rohingya refugees can or will return to Myanmar suggests the need for new ways of caring for refugees. States are called upon to maintain their well-being for an extended time while creating alternative employment opportunities and structured services tailored to the needs of those refugees. States must, therefore, recognise the benefits in such courses of action. The displacement of persons is a global reality. Climate change, food shortages, global poverty, and associated political instability increase the likelihood that people will be forced to make unanticipated temporary movements of varying duration and of varying distances. Host societies face added difficulties — such as COVID-19 — in ensuring the welfare of these temporary, but perhaps long-term, migrants.

Compared with the developed world, Bangladesh has many fewer resources to deal with such difficulties. In the circumstances, a different reading of the Bhasan Char initiative may be appropriate — a reading that acknowledges the pressures, tensions, and complexity of the situation underpinning Bangladesh's attempts to improve the livelihood of those refugees now experiencing the many social problems associated with overcrowded refugee camps. In the post-COVID environment, the world will turn its attention to the economic recovery of domestic economies. This focus is likely to diminish further the support for Bangladesh, which is suffering from failure-fatigue after three unsuccessful repatriation attempts. Pledged donations to assist Bangladesh with the situation in Cox's Bazaar are likely to decline even further. Such an outcome will exacerbate the pressure on Bangladesh, diverting global attention from the Rohingya crisis and the urgent need to share responsibility to relieve the worsening situations of forced migration and to forge solutions through collaborative and global initiatives.

Given this confluence of factors, Bangladesh's attempt to innovate and improve the well-being of displaced persons arriving on its soil may deserve more favourable — or, at least, sympathetic — global consideration.

Mohshin Habib is Adjunct Professor at Laurentian University in Ontario, Canada, and Adjunct Fellow at Western Sydney University.

Christine Jubb is Professor of Accounting at Swinburne Business School, Swinburne University of Technology.

Henri Pallard is Professor of Law and Justice at Laurentian University, Ontario, Canada.

Zakir Morshed teaches in the Department of Business Administration at Torrens University Australia.



Myanmar military a 'terrorist group' that should face international court, advisory council says

Source theguardian

Experts' group calls for 'three cuts' strategy against junta over deadly crackdowns as Canberra accused of dragging feet

A man holding a sign reading 'Stop crime against humanity' at a protest against the Myanmar coup in Taipei, Taiwan
A protest against the Myanmar coup in Taipei, Taiwan. Photograph: Jose Lopes Amaral/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

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The Myanmar military is a "terrorist group" that should be brought before the international criminal court, and funds flowing to it should be cut via a global sanctions regime, the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar says.

The council has called for a "three cuts" strategy to combat the Tatmadaw, as the military is known.

First, refer the situation in Myanmar to the international criminal court. Second, impose a comprehensive and internationally monitored arms embargo. And third, use targeted financial sanctions against senior military officials and all military-owned companies.

Australian international lawyer Chris Sidoti, a member of the advisory council and a former member of a UN independent fact-finding mission on Myanmar, said the international community must "follow the lead" of the Myanmar people who are defying the military daily on the streets of the country's cities.

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The special advisory council is an independent group of international experts on Myanmar.

"Myanmar people are calling for international action under the responsibility to protect," Sidoti said. "In response, we want to see three cuts imposed on the Myanmar military: cut the weapons, cut the cash, cut the impunity."

Myanmar's military has been shooting randomly at civilians, killing children and burning people alive for protesting against its coup staged on 1 February.

More than 440 people have been killed by the military since the coup, including a 13-year-old girl who was shot dead and a snack vendor in Mandalay who troops set on fire. A one-year-old girl survived after she was hit by a rubber bullet in the eye, and video footage shows soldiers chasing people down the street on motorbikes to shoot them at point-blank range.

News reports said Myanmar security forces killed 114 people, including some children, on Sunday – Armed Forces Day – the bloodiest day of the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

"These are barbaric criminal acts, calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public with the purpose of terrorising the entire population," an advisory council member, Marzuki Darusman, said. "The actions of the Myanmar military are the actions of a terrorist group, under any United Nations definition of the term."

Australia has been criticised for its response to the escalating violence in Myanmar, with Canberra accused of being too slow to impose further sanctions and cut off foreign money flowing to military-controlled companies. Australia has also failed to impose sanctions against the coup leader, army chief Min Aung Hlaing.

Australia suspended military cooperation with the Tatmadaw in March following the coup but was one of the last western countries to cut ties.

The UK, US and EU countries had all severed links with Myanmar's armed forces following the genocidal "clearance operations" against ethnic and religious minority Rohingya in 2017 which drove more than 700,000 people over the border into Bangladesh.

But Australia continued to provide non-combat training in areas such as "humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, English language transition, military law and peacekeeping" under a policy that "seeks to promote positive change through engagement with the Myanmar military". That cooperation was suspended only this month.

Australia has said it will consider targeted sanctions beyond those already imposed, which includes an arms embargo and sanctions against some senior military figures. But these have not been imposed.

The US has imposed sanctions against Min Aung Hlaing as well as key state-owned enterprises Myanmar Economic Corporation and Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited, sprawling secretive companies with interests in mining, brewing, banking and construction, and resources giant Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise, which earned the military regime almost US$1.5bn (A$2bn) last year.

Yadanar Maung, a spokeswoman for activist group Justice for Myanmar, told the Guardian: "While the people of Myanmar are deliberately being executed in the streets by the military, Australia appears to be dragging its feet after nearly two months since the coup."

Justice for Myanmar said Australia should immediately impose targeted sanctions against the Myanmar military and its businesses, as well as suspending police cooperation and holding the military to account for its crimes, including at the international criminal court.

"Australia failed the Rohingya when Myanmar committed genocide by continuing its military assistance to the Myanmar military and they are once against failing the people of Myanmar by not taking strong action that this grave situation calls for," the spokeswoman said.

"Australia must learn from its past mistakes and take immediate steps now to send a clear message to the Myanmar military that such abhorrent actions are reprehensible and will not be tolerated by the international community."

Gen Angus Campbell, chief of the Australian defence force, signed a joint statement with the chiefs of defence of the US, UK, Canada, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand and South Korea condemning the junta's indiscriminate attacks and urging it to "cease violence and work to restore respect and credibility with the people of Myanmar that it has lost through its actions".

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"As chiefs of defence, we condemn the use of lethal force against unarmed people by the Myanmar armed forces and associated security services," the statement said.

"A professional military follows international standards for conduct and is responsible for protecting – not harming – the people it serves."

The foreign minister, Marise Payne, said on Sunday: "Australia condemns in the strongest terms the continued and horrific use of lethal force against civilians in Myanmar, including young people and children…

"We call urgently on the Myanmar security forces to exercise restraint, uphold the rule of law and allow the Myanmar people to exercise their rights to peaceful protest."