Wong: I table a nonconforming petition in relation to the current humanitarian crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Last week in Adelaide I met with members of Bangladeshi community and I was pleased to receive this petition from them. The federal opposition is deeply concerned at reports of human rights abuses in Myanmar and the resulting humanitarian crisis currently facing Bangladesh. The international community and people here in Australia have been shocked by horrific stories and images coming out of Myanmar and Bangladesh. Over the past few days I and my office have received briefings from a range of organisations—Medecins Sans Frontieres, Save the Children, CARE Australia, Oxfam, APHEDA and UNICEF—and today I met with Wai Wai Nu, a peace and women’s rights activist from Myanmar. I would like to thank these groups and individuals for taking the time to send representation to Canberra and brief parliamentarians and their offices on the crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

We see a humanitarian crisis of catastrophic proportions. It is one of the fastest growing refugee crises in recent years. Over half a million Rohingya refugees have fled their homes in Myanmar since violence erupted in late August. Most of them are now living near the Bangladeshi city of Cox’s Bazar, which borders Myanmar. The entire land area of the camps and informal settlements, which is about 10 square kilometres in size, is simply not equipped for the influx in population and is under severe strain in terms of resources, infrastructure and space. Reports of violent attacks against the Rohingya community in Rakhine State have been corroborated by international NGOs and medical evidence. Having arrived with very few possessions or savings, the Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazar is dependent on humanitarian assistance for basic services. It is a population which is highly vulnerable, and the risk of an outbreak of disease is high.

United Nations officials have described the crimes committed against the Rohingya as ‘a textbook example of ethnic cleansing’ and Human Rights Watch has called them ‘crimes against humanity’. The opposition has made formal representations to the Prime Minister and the foreign minister, and we continue to urge the Australian government to do everything it can to respond to this escalating crisis and to speak out on human rights. In particular, we call on the government to pledge further funds to aid those affected by the violence in Rakhine State at the donor pledging conference in Geneva on 23 October. We call for the full implementation of the Kofi Annan report and the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State recommendations, which seek to prevent violence, maintain peace and foster reconciliation. We call on the government to work to establish an independent UN investigation into human rights abuses in Myanmar and to continue holding the government of Myanmar to account, especially the military, for its conduct and for its continued obligation to respect the human rights of all its people. We call for the government to support unimpeded humanitarian access to the camps in Bangladesh and to work closely with regional partners on a medium- and long-term response to the refugee crisis, seeking to ensure that the Rohingya population has a secure place to live in peace.

Australia and the Australian community have a deep affection for Myanmar. We have assisted Myanmar through economic reform, peace negotiations and its complex transition to democracy. We have watched its transitions and its democracy project with hope. In the face of this current escalating crisis we urge the government of Myanmar to recommit to pursue peace and national reconciliation. We offer our full support for efforts to achieve sustained peace and genuine reconciliation. The situation presents the State Counsellor and Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and the government more broadly, an opportunity to exercise moral authority to protect the human rights of its citizens and to mediate a peaceful resolution to the current crisis. We believe it is in Myanmar’s own interests for this conflict to be responded to fairly and resolved peacefully.

Chamber Senate on 17/10/2017Item ADJOURNMENT – Myanmar Speaker: Wong, Sen Penny/ Transcript used for reporting News