I was relieved today that my colleague Kennedy Graham put out a media release challenging our Government to raise human rights concerns with the President of the country formerly known as Burma.
I went to that country last year. I was impressed by how many people spoke to me about their hope for peace and democratic reform. The people I spoke to within the country and those living in exile as refugees in Thailand do not yet trust the Government. They have not seen evidence of change. Despite ‘our lady’ now being in Government, the war is not over.
In mid January the Government declared a cease fire in their war against the Kachin peoples, a minority ethnic group in the north, yet in late January there were still reports that the war was continuing.
The Karin people I spoke to talked about an increased military presence in the Karin areas in the south. They want to trust the peace but do not yet.
This week the Islamic Human Rights Commission put out a media release alerting the world to what they fear is an escalation of tensions against the Muslim minority Rohingya people, who are not recognised by the ruling Government.
It is not yet time to treat this Government as an equal trading partner. We cannot put our trade interests before the lives those ethnic minorities living in war and fear.