It’s in the Turnbull government’s DNA to avoid taking creative foreign policy initiatives on sensitive issues, even as democracy and freedoms backslide in countries such as Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia.
But the increasingly repressive rule in our neighbourhood pales into insignificance compared to what is happening in Aung San Suu Kyi’s Myanmar.
Outrage is mounting over atrocities committed by Myanmar’s security forces in Rakhine State over the past month which have forced almost half a million Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh, creating an emergency in squalid refugee camps.
The United Nations calls it ethnic cleansing.
Human Rights Watch says it meets the criteria for crimes against humanity under international law.
If ever there was a time for to stand-up, it is now.
has expressed its deep concern over the violence, provided $20 million in aid to victims and sent a handful of relief experts to Rakhine to assess people’s needs.
It is not enough.
Human rights activists are appalled that insisted on weakening a resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council on Myanmar.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says she doesn’t condemn Suu Kyi – who has called allegations against her military “fabrications” while at the same time appearing alarmingly ignorant of the situation, saying last week “we want to find out why this exodus is happening”.
What apologists for her overlook is that she outrageously linked international aid agencies to “terrorist” insurgents, bringing to an abrupt end the delivery of desperately needed aid to tens of thousands of Rohingya still in Myanmar.
To be sure, Suu Kyi is in a difficult position as her country’s military leaders appear to be calling the shots.
And and like-minded countries want to keep Suu Kyi and her government above water in the hope the country’s “transition to democracy” can continue.
But it is clear that both Suu Kyi and the military are in a state of denial.
should take leadership in rallying concerned countries to consider ways to best have an impact on the Myanmar military’s behaviour.
A start would be to stop pandering to Myanmar in the UN human rights council and to cut the n Defence Force’s ties to the country.