Amnesty International Calls for Rethink on Myanmar Relations

15/06/2019

Amnesty International (AI) released a report on May 29th calling on the UNSC and international partners to rethink the current approach to Myanmar in the wake of new atrocities and potential war crimes. A few years ago, there was international outrage over the Myanmar military’s treatment of the Rohingya, an ethnic minority in the region. Australia has been indirectly involved in these atrocities since the start.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) says of the Myanmar government that they are “undergoing an unprecedented, complex and challenging set of reforms”, including “peace negotiations to end decades of conflict with the country’s ethnic armed groups.” There are indeed armed groups, like the Arakan Army (who advocate for the self-determination of their people) that have been called out by AI for abuses of their own, but the majority of cases are perpetrated by the Tatmadaw.

Australia is one of few countries (and the only Western one, the others being India, Vietnam, Thailand and China) that has open friendly relations with the Myanmar government and military, including training programs for members of the military. The Australian government has been called upon numerous times to cease cooperation in this manner, particularly after ethnic cleansing accusations were thrown at the Tatmadaw regarding attacks and the Rohingya.

At the time, Julie Bishop refused to cut or stop funding the $400,000 deal with the Myanmar government. After Scott Morrison won the latest Liberal leadership spill, Marise Payne took over as Foreign Minister and has done little to shift policy. On October 23rd there were some military officers added to a sanctions list, but she has since visited the country and otherwise continued cooperation as normal.

A day later, Labor Senator Penny Wong questioned whether the government had any vetting processes in place to ensure that no military members who had been caught up in human rights abuses or crimes were receiving training. It was acknowledged that no such vetting process was in place, the government falling back on the fact that certain individuals had been sanctioned. In December, Human Rights Watch called on Australia to introduce such a system.

The greenlight for the Adani mine is also implicated with events in Myanmar. It was reported a month ago that Adani had signed off on a $290M USD deal with a company under military control in Myanmar. Adani has denied any violations in their dealings, but this should further preclude us from doing business with the corrupt mining company. Despite being economically unviable, catastrophic for the environment, and stinking of corruption, Australia’s investment in the Adani mine also ties us in with genocide.

Australia should not be investing any money into the Myanmar government or military while they are committing abuses. Instead, it should be ensured that humanitarian aid reaches those in need, that being the civilians caught up in the fighting. The Tatmadaw has been known to use excessive force, taking part in mass killings, rapes, arson, and more. More needs to be done to rein in these brutal acts, and a diplomatic solution between the Myanmar government and military and the various forces in the country needs to be prioritised.

HERE is an email petition by Amnesty International to Linda Reynolds (Minister for Defence) and Marise Payne (Minister for Foreign Affairs), calling on them to suspend cooperation with the Tatmadaw and to support the referrals to the International Criminal Court. I strongly recommend adding your voice to it.

 

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