Pacific Media Watch

12 December 2015

BURMA: Refugee advocates hopeful for better human rights with Suu Kyi's win

Hero image
Rahmat Ullah ... harrowing story of this Rohingya refugee and his family who perished at sea. Image: PMC archive

AUCKLAND (Asia-Pacific Human Rights Coalition/Pacific Media Watch): Three Auckland-based refugee advocates have given a hopeful view of improved human rights in Burma following Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) landslide elections victory last month.

It was the country's first national vote since a nominally civilian government was introduced in 2011, ending nearly 50 years of military rule.

The NLD will control the next 440-seat Hluttaw (parliament) and can choose the next president.

But the military still control 25 percent of the seats and the generals can veto constitutional change in a so-called "disciplined democracy".

Speaking on UN Human Rights Day, Stanley Saw, a project manager at the University of Auckland, who migrated from Burma to New Zealand in 1977, said Aung San Suu Kyi had “done her homework” in the elections.

He hoped she would be able to keep the military in check.

Saw gave an overview of colonial history and the military government era in Burma, and explained the ethnic breakdown in the country.

He is a frequent commentator on Burmese politics.

Harsh realities
Cicilia Dwe, a Karen refugee, was born on the Burma-Thai border and arrived in NZ in 2001, aged 10, as part of the UNHCR programme.

Recently a student, she is also a community activist and leads a cultural dance troupe.

She spoke on the harsh realities facing her Karen people.

Finally, Rahmat Ullah, a Rohingya refugee who arrived in NZ in 2008 as part of the UNHCR programme and is now a painter, talked of the plight of his people.

Originally from Arakan state in Burma (Myanmar), he spoke of the oppression of the Rohingya people.

He condemned the “ethnic cleansing” and said as a stateless Rohingyan he could no longer return to Burma, unlike the other two speakers.

“The Rohingyas are defined as the most persecuted minority group in the world,” he said, citing unnamed scholars.

About 40 people were present at the APHRC event hosted by the Pacific Media Centre at Auckland University of Technology.

Burmese elections analysis

Pacific Media Watch

PMC's media monitoring service

Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators. (cc) Creative Commons