The National Union of Workers (NUW) joined with Melbourne’s Rohingya community on September 7 to protest the genocide against Rohingya in Myanmar. The NUW has formed a strong bond with the Rohingya community through its work organising Rohingya and other heavily exploited migrant farm workers to win better wages and working conditions.
Many members of the Rohingya community in Melbourne have family members who have been killed in the current genocidal attacks on Rohingya in Myanmar.
Solidarity with the Rohingya was expressed by ACTU President Ged Kearney and a delegation from the Sikh community.
Australia Burma Rohingya Organisation (ABRO) spokesperson Habib said: “Today we are here to raise our voices on behalf of oppressed Rohingya and Kaman people who are facing ongoing genocide in Rakhine (Arakan) state of western Myanmar (Burma), and also for continuous waging wars against other minorities.
“We would like to raise our very serious concerns and to urge the world mechanism bodies, international communities, neighbouring countries, OIC [Organisation of Islamic Cooperation] and ASEAN bodies to take all necessary and immediate measures to end the crises across Burma, particularly in Arakan state.”
Habib explained that the armed resistance group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) formed in response to the “horror actions involving arbitrary arrests, tortures, rapes, looting, extortion and actively blocking of food transports in Rohingya populated regions of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathidaung townships from 11 August 2017”.
However, Habib said, ARSA’s attack on the police posts gave the military regime an opportunity to resume “unprecedented genocidal operations against innocent unarmed Rohingya civilians and responded very indiscriminately, by using fight helicopters, tanks, rocket launchers, machine guns, and torching houses, shooting women, children and aged people and slaughtering, and burning alive.”
While the government is trying to downplay the death toll to reduce international pressure, Habib said more than 30,000 houses from about 56 villages were burnt down, more than 3000 innocent unarmed Rohingya civilians, mostly women, children and elderly people, were killed and more than 200,000 people have been displaced.
About half the displaced people, including a small number of Hindus, have been pushed out across the Bangladeshi border. About 20,000 people are trapped in Maungdaw South and more than 30,000 people are trapped in the Buthidaung Mountains.
Since June 2012, Rohingya and Kamans from Rakhine (Arakan) state have been totally excluded, segregated, trapped in concentration camps, systematically confined, their aid and food supplies have been blocked and they have been permanently barred from education, medicare and livelihood.
The Australia Burma Rohingya Organisation is calling for:
1. The UN to use its special powers to immediately deploy international peacekeeping forces on the ground before there is a human catastrophe.
2. The UN to force the Burmese government to immediately stop the blockades of food and aid supplies and to grant special power to aid agencies to enable them to supply food and aid on the ground directly without handing over to Rakhine authorities.
3. The UN to put pressure on the NLD government to immediately lift all kinds of restrictions, and halt corporal and collective punishments, arbitrary killings and arrests.
4. The UN to monitor the granting of citizenship of Rohingya and Kaman people and to stop forcing and pressuring Rohingya and Kaman to accept foreign identities.
5. The UN to demand the immediate release of Muslim political prisoners from central Burma and thousands of Rohingya prisoners, some as young as 12, who are mostly detained in Sittwe Central Jail, Buthidaung Jail and many others who are detained in police cells and military camps.
6. The UN and its member countries to use their veto powers to allow a UN Commission of Inquiry to investigate and take effective and solid action against government authorities, military generals and other Rakhine politicians who are the main perpetrators and directly involved in crimes.
7. The UN must establish a safe territory or special region for Rohingya and Kaman people within Arakan state, as the central government, local authorities and general public are jointly denying the existence of Rohingya and wiping out the entire Rohingya and Kaman people from Arakan state.
8. UNHCR in Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia to provide adequate protection, accommodation, aid and support for all recent and previous arrival of Rohingya refugees.
[The full text of the ABRO statement is available at greenleft.org.au. Sue Bolton is a Socialist Alliance councillor at Moreland City Council.]