Human Rights Day 2021: Open letter from the CRPH-NUG Support Group Australia to the Australian Government

Dear Prime Minister and Senator Payne,

December 10th is the anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On this anniversary, Australians not only celebrate the rights we exercise every day, but we also acknowledge that ‘enjoying those rights carries with it the responsibility of promoting these rights for all people’ (Australian Human Rights Commission).

Following is a snapshot of the human rights violations across Myanmar for this week alone:

• A five-year-old girl was fatally shot in the head when soldiers fired random shots in her neighbourhood in Mandalay, taking the total number of children murdered by the regime to 100 in the last 10 months.

• In Yangon, a military truck ploughed into unarmed anti-regime peaceful protesters then fired live ammunition, killing four people – not only a violation of their human rights, but it also amounts to ‘extrajudicial and disproportionate punishment’. Vehicle ramming attacks on protestors have occurred 19 times over the past 10 months.

• Myanmar’s detained civilian leaders, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, and President U Win Myint, were convicted and sentenced to 4 years in prison in a sham trial, before a military-controlled court. Other cases against State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi – considered baseless and designed to end her political career – together carry a maximum sentence of more than 100 years in prison. There is never a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal for those arbitrarily detained because there is no such thing as judicial independence under the military junta.

• The military junta have allegedly burned 10 villagers alive in Salingyi Township, Sagaing Region – the group included 5 teenagers aged 14 to17.

Huge crowds gathered at a protest against the military coup in February, 2021.

As expected, the United Nations, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, immediately condemned the unjust conviction of Myanmar’s elected leaders in the strongest terms: ‘The conviction of the State Counsellor following a sham trial in secretive proceedings before a military-controlled court is nothing but politically-motivated…It is not only about arbitrary denial of her freedom – it closes yet another door to political dialogue’ UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

‘The Burmese military regime’s unjust conviction of Aung San Suu Kyi and the repression of other democratically elected officials are yet further affronts to democracy and justice in Burma’ Antony Blinken, US Secretary of state.

The United Nations, the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union, unanimously reiterated their calls for the unconditional release of all those arbitrarily detained, including Myanmar’s elected leaders, an end to the military junta’s gross violations of human rights, for the regime to engage in constructive dialogue with all parties, and for the restoration of democracy.

• Why did Australia remain silent this week?

• Why has Australia still not joined its allies the US, UK, EU, and Canada in sanctioning the junta leaders and major military enterprises, including the Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) and Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL)?

In standing strongly on the side of the people of Myanmar and their desire for an inclusive federal democratic union, the Australian government will not only uphold its responsibility for promoting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but also the principles on which our Australian Constitution is based, and Australia’s long-term strategy for a secure, peaceful, prosperous, and open Indo-Pacific region. Senator Marise Payne has told us that ‘the political stability of ASEAN member states is essential to achieving our vision for a secure, peaceful, prosperous and open Indo-Pacific region’.

In support of this Dr Lavina Lee, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations at Macquarie University says ‘democracy promotion’ in our region is key to achieving Australia’s long-term vision. For all of these reasons, democracy promotion in Myanmar should be Australia’s utmost priority. Since the Febraury 1 attempted coup and the ongoing military junta violence against the population, there has been a seismic shift in Myanmar, a transformation in its political psyche according to Saw Kapi. The entire country of 50 million is in revolt against the military junta and they have strongly articulated their desire for an inclusive, united, Federal Democratic Union – expressed on multiple fronts through the Civil Disobedience Movement instigated by Myanmar’s health professionals, the refusal of ordinary citizens to pay taxes and other revenues for essential services, the leadership of Generation Z, the formation of the National Unity Government, and the People’s Defence Forces.

Young people protesting against the military coup in Yangon, February 2021.

How can the Australian government, together with its allies, promote democracy in Myanmar right now? The Special Advisory Council for Myanmar, which includes Australia’s Chris Sidoti, is calling for a global three cuts strategy against the Myanmar military junta: ‘Cut the weapons, cut the cash and cut the impunity’. According to Dr Htwe Htwe Thein, a member of CRPH/NUG Support Group (Western Australia) and Associate Professor in International Business at the School of Management, Curtin University Australia, there is one very key explanation for the February 1 coup, and that is, ‘the desire of the military to protect its wealth and business interests. For decades the military has amassed huge wealth by controlling the state bureaucracy and establishing near-monopolies in key sectors’. The military junta’s substantial revenue is the key factor which enables the military’s illegitimate grip on power and their ongoing atrocities. But the international community must go further than sanctioning the military’s conglomerates MEC and MEHL, by also placing sanctions on their revenues from oil and gas extraction. We must declare the military junta a terrorist organisation and instead recognise and work together with Myanmar’s National Unity Government, the only legitimate representative of the Myanmar people. Australia and the rest of the international community ‘can no longer afford to defer to ASEAN for leadership…nine months since the Myanmar military coup, it is clear that ASEAN has failed’.

We, the CRPH-NUG Support Group Australia, representing the undersigned groups from the Myanmar diaspora community in Australia, welcome any invitation to further discuss Australia’s response to the crisis in Myanmar.

1. Australian Karen Organisation (AKO) ACT Chapter, ACT
2. Mon National Council (MNC), ACT
3. All Burma Student Democratic Front (ABSDF) – Australia Branch, NSW
4. All Young Burmese League (AYBL), NSW
5. Australian Karen Organisation (AKO), NSW
6. Burma Lawyer Council (BLC), NSW
7. Burmese Community Development Collaboration (BCDC), NSW
8. Burmese Community Support Group (BCSG), NSW
9. Burmese Medical Association Australia (BMAA), NSW
10. Kachin Association Australia, NSW
11. NSW Karenni (Kayah) Communities, NSW
12. Mindat Chin Community, NSW
13. Mon National Council (MNC), NSW
14. Myanmar Community Coffs Harbour (MCC), NSW
15. Myanmar Engineering Association of Australia (MEAA) , NSW
16. Myanmar Professionals Association Australia (MPAA), NSW
17. NLD Solidarity Association (NSW chapter), NSW
18. The Institution of Professional Engineers Myanmar (IPEM), NSW
19. Industrial Training Center (ITC) Family Sydney, NSW
20. Justice for Myanmar, NSW
21. Sydney Friends for Myanmar Unity, NSW
22. We Pledge CDM (Australia), NSW
23. Zomi Association Australia Inc. NSW
24. Australia Burma Friendship Association, NT
25. Australian Karen Organisation (AKO) Queensland Chapter, QLD
26. Burma Lawyers’ Council (BLC) , QLD
27. NLD Solidarity Association (Australia), QLD
28. Patriotic War Vetrans of Burma (PWVB), QLD
29. Queensland Kachin Community (QKC), QLD
30. Queensland Rohingya Community, QLD
31. Zomi Community Queensland, QLD
32. Queensland Myanmar Youth Collective (QMYC), QLD
33. Myanmar Students’ Association Australia (MSAA), QLD
34. Burmese Community – South Australia, SA
35. Chin Community – South Australia, SA
36. Falam Community – South Australia, SA
37. Karen Community – South Australia, SA
38. Matu Chin Community – South Australia, SA
39. Mindat Community – South Australia, SA
40. Mizo Community – South Australia, SA
41. Zo Community – South Australia, SA
42. Zomi Community – South Australia, SA
43. Kayin Community Tasmania, TAS
44. Chin Community Tasmania, TAS
45. Bamar Community Tasmania, TAS
46. Anti-Myanmar Military Dictatorship Network (AMMON), VIC
47. Australian Burmese Muslim Organisation, VIC
48. Australian Chin Community (Eastern Melbourne Inc), VIC
49. Anti-Myanmar Dictatorship Movement, VIC
50. Burmese Welfare Association of Victoria (BWAV), VIC
51. Karenni Community, VIC
52. Mon Families Group, VIC
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53. Myanmar Democracy and Peace Committee (Australia), VIC
54. NLD Solidarity Association (Australia), VIC
55. Shwe Youth Democratic Alliance (SYDA), VIC
56. Victoria Myanmar Muslim Community Inc., VIC
57. Victorian Myanmar Youth (VMY), VIC
58. Zomi Association Australia Inc., VIC
59. Kachin Association of Australia WA Inc., WA
60. Australian Karen Organisation (AKO) WA Chapter, WA
61. Chin Community of Western Australia Inc., WA
62. Remonya Association of WA (Mon Community), WA
63. Karenni/Kayah Community, WA
64. Pyit Taing Htaung Social Club, WA
65. Myanmar Democratic Movement (MDM), WA
66. Perth Myanmar Youth Network, WA
67. Chin Youth Organization, WA
68. Yadanar Foundation, WA
69. Red Campaign Nirvana Exhortation Group, WA
70. Australia Myanmar Doctors, Nurses and Friends, WA
71. Institute of Chin Affairs, WA
72. BMT Counselling, WA

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