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BRCA President Mr. Anwar’s interview

BRCA President Mr. Anwar’s interview with SBS World Radio News over the concern of President Thein Sein visit to Australia

The Federal Government is being urged to raise human rights issues during a visit next week by Burma’s President Thein Sein.
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The calls follow a United Nations report expressing concern over how Burma is making the transition from military rule to democracy.

Santilla Chingaipe has the details.

Recently, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Burma released a report highlighting developments in Burma after decades of military rule.

Tomas Ojea Quintana says despite progress, Burma still needs to tackle serious human rights challenges.

Mr Quintana says only then can democratic transition and national reconciliation succeed.

“It requires ensuring that new legislation such as the proposed Printing and Publishing Law does not claw back advances in freedom of expression. It includes repealing legislation that remains a legacy from previous military governments such as the 1908 Unlawful Association Act and it requires capacity for the police and army personnel so that people are no longer beaten for the acts of peacefully expressing their views. This reform process must address these shortfalls now.”

Activist group, Burma Campaign Australia, says President Thein Sein’s visit to Australia provides an opportunity to raise concerns about fundamental freedoms.

Spokeswoman Zetty Brake says all ethnic groups should be able to enjoy the same freedoms in Burma.

“We want to see equality given to those ethnic nationalities and for different religions to be respected as well. This means we want to see ethnic groups having self determination and being able to have control over their lands and their resources. This is very much not the case at the moment, where we’re seeing conflict happening to get control over resources. People should be respected for their different ethnic nationalities and that really is something that needs to change in Burma and its something the Australian government can raise and push further the Burmese government on.”

One such group are the ethnic Rohingya Muslims.

Estimated to number about 800,000, the United Nations have called the Rohingya one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world.

Unrest between the Muslim Rohingya and Buddhists since June last year has left almost 200 people dead and about 120,000 displaced.

The UN says this has led thousands of Rohingya to seek refuge in Bangladesh and other neighbouring countries.

Mohammed Anwar is from the Burmese Rohingya Community in Australia.

Mr Anwar says Australia is in a strong position to help end discrimination against Rohingya in Burma.

“Australia should show off its human rights capabilities to Burma otherwise, I believe that because Australia has got its security post on the UN [Security] Council, Australia has a big role to bring justice for the people or to bring rights for the abused people.”

Mr Anwar says the plight of the Rohingya – and those fleeing as refugees – needs to be recognised.

“If the international community leaves it as an internal matter of Burma, the Rohingya issue, then it will not be solved maybe even in 100 years because the majority of the Burmese people do not like the Rohingya, and they are against them. That [hate] has been created by the media and also some respected political figures. They all use different terms for Rohingya and they are all claiming that these people are illegal immigrants. That’s why we need international support, we need international help.”

In addition to talks with government officials while in Australia, President Thein Sein will also meet business leaders.

However, Zetty Brake from Burma Campaign Australia says it’s too soon to be holding business talks with Burma.

“What we haven’t seen in Burma is significant reforms to the business environment and what we do know is that foreign investment often has been linked to human rights abuses, to the displacement of tens of thousands of people in Burma and to the loss of livelihood for many of those people. Many local communities do not benefit from foreign investment and meeting with business leaders is premature.”

President Thein Sein will visit between Sunday and Wednesday, and is expected to make a trip to Canberra.

It will be the first visit to Australia by a Burmese head of state since 1974.