Deakin researcher urges government to suspend defence ties with Myanmar

22 September 2017

A Deakin University researcher on the history, identity and political attitudes of Rohingya Muslims is calling on the Australian Government to suspend military co-operation with Myanmar in protest against ethnic cleansing in the strife-torn Rakhine state.

Ronan Lee, a researcher in the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, said the Government should condemn human rights violations by Myanmar's security forces that had caused more than 400,000 people to flee to camps in neighbouring Bangladesh since August 24.

"I don’t believe there's any ambiguity here - the people overwhelmingly responsible for the continuing problems are the Myanmar military," Mr Lee said.

"The UN's called this a textbook case of ethnic cleansing. Australia needs to be sided with the victims of ethnic cleansing, not co-operating with the perpetrators."

Australia provides defence training for Myanmar's military and also has a Defence Attaché in the Southeast Asian country.

By not suspending defence links, Mr Lee argued Australia was legitimising the Myanmar military's brutal actions that have caused the humanitarian disaster.

"We need to make it absolutely clear to Myanmar's military that their behaviour is unacceptable to us and we won't co-operate with them," he said.

Mr Lee also urged the Government to offer immediate permanent residency to Rohingya refugees currently in Australia and on Manus Island who sought a new life on Australian shores.

"It's just ghoulish to suggest they should go back to Myanmar and face ethnic cleansing," he said.

Mr Lee said more than 500,000 Rohingya had fled to camps inside Bangladesh since last October, with the majority making the hazardous trek through countryside seeded with landmines to the border in the past month. And numbers were growing by the thousands every day.

"It's a man-made humanitarian disaster," Mr Lee said.

"In the past month 400,000 people have arrived - that’s a population about double the size of Geelong turning up in a month. The figures are unbelievable."

Mr Lee has carried out extensive field work in Myanmar over the past decade. He witnessed the country's 2010 and 2015 elections and has met Aung San Suu Kyi, the country's de facto leader.

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Media release Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation (ADI)

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