The Morrison government faces increasing pressure from its own ranks to expand sanctions against Myanmar’s military leaders and to offer permanent residence to citizens who wish to remain in Australia.
Burmese security forces have killed hundreds of civilians amid protests in the aftermath of the February 1 coup, but the Australian government has delayed strengthening sanctions against key generals, arguing the junta is largely resistant to the international pressures.
Liberal, National, Labor and Green parliamentarians challenged this position in a new report released on Thursday.
The consensus report says the government should further consider imposing targeted sanctions on senior military officials and military-related entities “who have played a role in the overthrow of democracy and violent repression. which followed demonstrations ”.
This should include entities such as the Myanmar Economic Corporation and Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Limited, according to a subcommittee of the Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade.
The Australian government has not announced any additional sanctions since the military coup, despite international pressure. Australia has sanctions against five military figures who have been on the list since 2018 – but they do not include the junta’s commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing and his deputy.
Guardian Australia revealed in April that a UN expert was in direct talks with the Australian government on how to extend sanctions against the military regime and warned that crimes against humanity were “being committed before our eyes. “.
Almost 400 civil society organizations in Myanmar have accused Australia of “shameful inaction”. But Australian officials have argued that additional sanctions “would not have a positive impact on the ground” and “could potentially limit our ability to influence.”
The new recommendations come from the Foreign Affairs and Aid subcommittee, which is chaired by Liberal MP Dave Sharma. Its vice-chairman is Labor MP Julian Hill and it also includes members from the Nationals and Greens.
The report says there are “different views on the issue of the effectiveness of sanctions among committee members, as well as within the international community” – but the group “as a whole” believes the sanctions deserve. closer examination.
The death toll after the coup now stands at 877, according to the latest figures compiled by the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners.
“The military coup in Myanmar resulted in a great deal of loss of life and human tragedy, and completely reversed the significant development gains that Myanmar has achieved over the past decade under civilian and democratic rule,” said Sharma, a former Australian ambassador.
The committee’s report also cites concerns about “substantial anxiety among the Burmese diaspora in Australia over the lack of clarity regarding visa requirements.”
With around 3,380 Myanmar nationals in Australia on temporary visas at the end of March, the Australian government has said it will not send them back to the country while the environment is still dangerous.
But the committee’s report urges the government to explore “avenues to permanent residence for Myanmar nationals in Australia given the uncertain situation they face” if they return.
The eight recommendations also include a call for the Australian government to “formally engage with groups and individuals representing the legitimately elected representatives” of Myanmar, including the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) and the Government of National Unity.
The committee says it is “concerned to learn” that the Australian government did not initially respond to the communication sent to it by the CRPH.
Between February and March, the government “sought to be cautious” as it had hoped to resolve complex consular cases such as that of detained Australian economist Professor Sean Turnell, according to the report. Turnell served as an advisor to Myanmar Democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The report acknowledges that Australia has legitimate national interests which would require contact with the military, known as Tatmadaw, but says such communication should be “very selective”.
Canberra also had to take steps to avoid giving a sense of legitimacy to the military regime in Myanmar, he said.
Although the report is a consensus among the parties, Labor members of the committee wrote an additional chapter accusing the government of being “far too slow to act” in response to the coup and the crisis that resulted from it.
“The government’s slowness to act sends precisely the wrong message to the brave people of Myanmar, the region and democracies around the world,” the chapter said.
The Greens wrote that if the government does not urgently apply sanctions to key generals involved in the coup, Foreign Minister Marise Payne should provide a statement to parliament clearly explaining the reasons.
Greens foreign spokeswoman Janet Rice plans to introduce legislation in the Senate to set a deadline for the government to explain its inaction.
“The Australian government has been inactive for nearly five months as the people of Myanmar called for urgent action, and other countries around the world have responded to their calls,” Rice said.
The committee supported the government’s decision to suspend defense cooperation with Myanmar – but urges it to actively lobby for a global arms embargo and to support UN efforts to demand account to Tatmadaw leaders and investigate serious human rights violations.
Some members of the Myanmar diaspora community in Australia have argued that the children of those responsible for the coup currently in Australia should be deported and have handed over a document describing their names to Australian government officials, as reported. Guardian Australia last month.
The parliamentary committee report says the Home Office was questioned in mid-May whether there had been any inquiries into the Tatmadaw relatives in Australia – but it has yet to respond.