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Bob Carr speaking in support of the Rohyingya at Sydney Town Hall (Image courtesy brca.org.au).

Former Foreign Minister Bob Carr and Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon spoke against the genocide of the Rohingya people in Myanmar at a Sydney rally on Saturday. Jane Salmon reports.

ON SATURDAY (24 September 2017), former Foreign Minister Bob Carr and Senator Lee Rhiannon spoke in support of Rohingya rights at a Sydney Town Hall rally against Myanmar ethnic cleansing, convened by Pakistani community groupPTI.

Mr Carr seems to be keen to redress lifting sanctions against Myanmar military in 2012. He said it was clear by the following year that the Rohingya were still vulnerable.

His empathy for the Rohingya people seems unequivocal, although excessive optimism about human rights, plus strategic and economic pressures, swung against them at that time.

Senator Rhiannon reminded us that the Rohingya have been oppressed for over 70 of the past 200 years. They are virtually stateless within their own country.

Carr spoke evocatively of the denied rights, abandoned children, burned homes and unsanitary border camps. He seemed both to be attempting to make amends and going for an ambassadorship when he promised the Sydney Rohingya that he will advocate for the reintroduction of military sanctions on Myanmar. 

Carr went further, recommending a financial embargo around the generals and political elite, while maintaining other forms of aid and trade to help ordinary citizens haul themselves out of poverty.

Mr Carr said:

"It is now time for Australia to re-impose targeted sanctions on the military and the government leadership of Myanmar. The type of sanctions I am talking about would NOT hurt the ordinary people of a country that is trying to haul itself out of poverty. But sanctions against financial dealings of the military leadership, for example, sanctions against financial transactions engaged by its military or political leadership. An end to any cooperation between the Australian military and the military of Myanmar — an immediate end of that."

Rhiannon reminded the mainly Rohingya and Pakistani crowd assembled at Sydney Town Hall that the Greens recommend immediate intake of 20,000 refugees. She spoke against Australian immigration refoulement and pressure on Rohingya refugees to return to the Rakhine province of Myanmar, which is now famous for its burnt out homes. She also urged Australia to increase aid to refugee camps in neighbouring countries. 

Both speakers criticised the hopeless situation of the Rohingya, who are denied the rights of ordinary citizens in Myanmar, including education, employment and the right to vote. Rhiannon called for an immediate end to discrimination against this Muslim minority.

More information about the Rohingya crisis is available from the Burmese Rohingya Community in Australia on their website, brca.org.au, or Facebook page.

You can follow Jane Salmon on Twitter @jsalmonupstream.

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