Australia

Myanmar ethnic groups call on the Australian government for help

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Migrants and refugees from Myanmar warn that ethnic groups are still being targeted by the military despite a nationwide ceasefire.

Australia’s ethnic Myanmar migrants are calling on western nations to intervene in the South East Asian nation, warning of decades of war crimes and human rights violations.
 
Over five hundred people joined a protest outside Perth’s state parliament on Tuesday calling on the Australian - and other western governments - to take action to help protect the countries ethnic groups.
 
While there has been a lot of media exposure around the plight of the Rohingya Muslims, other ethnic groups including the Karen, Kachin, Arakan and Chin communities say they have experienced ongoing persecution for decades.

 

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Protesters travelled from around the country to join the protest in Perth.
SBS

Organiser and Karen Community WA spokesperson Samuel Po says the Rohingya crisis is just the tip of the iceberg.
 
“The Rohingya is what you have been hearing in the news right now. But for us, the other ethnic groups, we’ve been suffering for so long,” he said.

“We are here protesting and rallying because we want the international community to be aware of this also, and to put pressure on the Burma military dictators.”

Along with allegations of war crimes and ongoing military attacks, the communities are concerned by further escalations against ethnic groups in the country.


 
They say there are widespread human rights violations by the army, including torture, forced labour and rape, along with medical and humanitarian aid for civilians being blocked.

Organisers of the protest warn the “peace process” is being used to violate what is meant to be a nationwide ceasefire, under the pretence of fighting terrorism.

Scott Johnson is a human rights lawyer who works closely with a number of ethnic groups in the country and says the situation has been dire for some time. 

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The communities organised a traditional dance as part of the protest.
SBS

“The war in Kachin state started in 2011. There’s a hundred and twenty IDP’s (internally displaced people) and refugee’s in Kachin state alone.”

“Two months ago, my Karen guide was shot and murdered by the Burmese army. They killed him and he was a civilian.”
 
Ethnic groups with deep connections to their regions account for at least a third of the Myanmar population according to the 2014 census.

And while the government officially transitioned from military rule to a democratic election system in 2015, there were accusations of vote fraud by the military from opposition groups across the country.
 
Teresa Gawlu of the Kachin Association of Australia believes true representation can’t happen until the military is out of the picture.

Kachin, Karen and Chin migrants and refugee's protesting in front of WA Parliament.
SBS News

 
“We have been oppressed for more than 50 years and are the minority in Burma,” she said.

“We have been deprived of human rights so we are going to do this [protest] unless there is peace in our country.”
 
“We would like to have true genuine democracy in Burma which at the present, the military government is interfering with all the democratic progress.”

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