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.