Wednesday, 19 September 2018
Questions without Notice
Myanmar: Human Rights
I thank Senator Smith for his question. The Australian government has publicly stated that we strongly condemn the atrocities committed in Myanmar's Rakhine, Shan and Kachin states, as detailed in the full report of the fact-finding mission on Myanmar that was released yesterday. We are very disturbed by the conclusion that war crimes, crimes against humanity and likely genocide have occurred in Rakhine state. Australia has been a strong supporter of the UN fact-finding mission, which has worked very hard to provide a thorough, credible and independent investigation. I met with Mr Chris Sidoti, the Australian member of the UN fact-finding mission, last week to discuss their findings. I look forward to discussing the next steps with international counterparts during UN leaders' week in New York next week.
The Australian government is considering options in response to the fact-finding mission's report, including the option of targeted sanctions. In line with the mission's recommendations, Australia will support international efforts on accountability and justice in Myanmar. Australian negotiators are working on these initiatives in Geneva at the current session of the Human Rights Council, of which we are a member. Australia will continue to work with the government of Myanmar, the international community and our counterparts in the region towards a long-term and durable solution to the complex problems in Rakhine state. Myanmar continues to face formidable challenges as it transitions to democracy from five decades of military rule. As a regional partner, Australia will continue to support those efforts to achieve democracy and national peace and reconciliation for the benefit of all people in Myanmar.
I thank Senator Smith for his supplementary question. We have raised our concerns about human rights issue in Rakhine and the plight of the Rohingya directly with the Myanmar government. Both the former Prime Minister Mr Turnbull and the former foreign minister Julie Bishop raised the matter directly with Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi during the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit. I have also discussed the issues with my international counterparts in my former role and in my current role, including at the Australia-US ministerial consultations in July and the Australia-United Kingdom ministerial meeting also in July.
As I said, I will discuss those matters further with international counterparts next week. We have supported resolutions at the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly, condemning the reported abuses, calling for accountability for humanitarian access to Rakhine state and calling for, once conditions allow, the safe, sustainable, voluntary and dignified return of displaced Rohingyas to Myanmar. Our national statement to the Human Rights Council yesterday reinforced that. (Time expired)
It is an important question, because Australia's response has been focused on the urgent needs of those who are affected by the humanitarian crises in both Myanmar and Bangladesh. We have provided $70 million in humanitarian assistance since September last year. In Bangladesh, that assistance is providing food for over 800,000 people and nutrition supplements for over 139,000 women and children. It's also helping to reinforce shelters, to reunite children with their families and to create safe areas for vulnerable women and children. In Myanmar, our Australian aid has provided food and essential supplies to 150,000 people in Rakhine State and health and counselling services for almost 60,000 women and girls, including survivors of sexual and gender based violence. We're working with ASEAN and our regional partners to look for long-term solutions to this regional crisis, including with Indonesia, as co-chairs of the Bali Process, and through joint humanitarian efforts in Cox's Bazar.