Naw Naw * trembled as she spoke about the deadly violence that took place at her home in Myanmar.
- Thousands of Burmese are struggling to live in Australia
- Back home, hundreds of people have been killed by the military after seizing power in a coup
- The Australian government has been criticized for its “constipated” response
Activists estimate more than 700 people – some of them children as young as five – have died since the military seized power in a February 1 coup, ousting de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
“Sometimes they kill at night … every age, they kill,” Naw Naw told the ABC.
For now, Naw Naw is safe in Melbourne, studying an early childhood diploma.
But his time in Australia may be running out soon – his visa will expire next month.
As a member of the Kachin ethnic community who has been outspoken about atrocities back home, he fears what will happen if he is forced to return.
“I will be arrested too if I have to return now,” he said.
He was afraid that if he was arrested, he would not come out alive.
“Everyone here is afraid to come back at this time. I am very worried about every student.”
Mary Aung, also an international student, voiced those fears at a public hearing on the situation in Myanmar being held by the joint standing committee for Foreign, Defense and Trade Affairs today.
“There is a big danger for me if I go back if I go back to Myanmar – I could be arrested when I arrived,” he said.
There are more than 3,500 temporary visa holders from Myanmar in Australia, about half of whom are students.
Last month, The Australian reports The government plans to grant visa extensions on humanitarian grounds to Myanmar citizens in Australia on temporary visas.
The report said the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade were working on policies that would be announced “not in a few weeks, but a few days” – but no announcements had yet been made.
The latest government figures show that in March 45 Myanmar citizens applied for protection visas to the Australian government. Thirteen applied in February.
Some Myanmar communities have asked the Australian government to follow these steps Bob Hawke, who offers asylum to Chinese students in Australia after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.
That’s something Naw Naw wants to see too.
“I really want to ask the Australian government to take decisive and swift action [on] this, “he said.
Australia criticizes ‘constipation’ response
Members of the Myanmar community criticized Australia’s “slow and ineffective” response to the coup.
Labor MP Julian Hill said they “deserved better”.
“Here we are in mid-April, and the best you get is something is possible and that’s not my problem,” he said.
“Sounds a little constipated, I have to say, so I hope some of this can be done soon so things don’t get stuck.”
Ridwaan Jadwat, from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, disagrees with that assessment.
“The government will look at this with great compassion and make decisions that make sense,” he said.
He said visa extensions were being considered, and when it came to sanctions, “nothing was off the table”, he added.
Defense’s Hugh Jeffrey warned that sanctioning the military is not a “silver bullet.”
“The Tatmadaw is an institution that is very resistant to international influence,” he said.
“We also need to provide options that encourage the return of liberal democratic rule.”
Australia’s complicated answer is the ongoing detention of Professor Sean Turnell, a close aide to Aung San Suu Kyi.
Defense officials said they pushed for his release in a phone call between Australian Defense Force deputy chief David Johnston and Myanmar’s senior deputy general Soe Win – a call played for propaganda purposes by the Tatmadaw.
DFAT’s Schedule said the Australian government does not recognize the military regime as Myanmar’s government, but lines of communication need to remain open.
Workforce joins the call for visa extension
The federal opposition is pressuring the government to offer visa extensions to thousands of Myanmar citizens in Australia.
The calls came after 82 people were massacred on Friday in the city of Bago, near Yangon.
Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Shadow Home Minister Kristina Keneally have written to the government urging them to “demonstrate Australia’s strong opposition to this direct attack”.
“This incident … caused extreme distress to members of the Myanmar diaspora community in Australia,” they wrote.
“We therefore urge the government to allow Myanmar nationals on temporary visas in Australia to extend their stay.
The United States has announced it will provide temporary protection for Myanmar citizens in the country.
Naw Naw indicates Australia has to offer extended visa option for Hong Kong passport holders, in wake up from the 2019 protests fund sweep the National Security Law in the region.
He added that the violence from the Myanmar military, the Tatmadaw, was on a different level from the crackdown in Hong Kong.
“They don’t do terrible things like Myanmar,” he said.
“Every day [we are] losing innocent people. “
* Name has been changed to protect identity.