Myanmar is 'a long way' from reconciliation: Carr | Connect Asia

Myanmar is 'a long way' from reconciliation: Carr

Myanmar is 'a long way' from reconciliation: Carr

Updated 12 July 2013, 16:13 AEST

Australia's Foreign Minister Bob Carr has warned there is a risk outside extremist groups could become involved in sectarian conflict in Myanmar.

He says this follows as "night follows day" if legitimate grievances by the Rohingya community in Rakhine state aren't dealt with.

Senator Carr has wrapped up a two-day visit to Myanmar where he has held talks with the government, opposition and community representatives in Naypyidaw.

Presenter: Karon Snowdon

Speaker: Bob Carr, Australia's Foreign Minister

CARR: Well I put it to three or four ministers, to the Opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, I put it as well to the Speaker of the Parliament, Shwe Marn, They know that Australia is deeply concerned about the position of the Rohingya, and about what appears to be systemic discrimination directed against them. They acknowledge that more work needs to be done in Rakhine State, where the Rohingya live.
SNOWDON: Did you get a sense that the government isn't prepared to confront the anti-Rohingya elements, especially within the community of Buddhist monks in the country?
CARR: I would say, I'm not in a position to be that specific, but I would say, after speaking to representatives of two political parties, representing the non-Rohingya population, if we can put it that way in Rakhine State, that the problems are deep seated. There is a very strong prejudice directed against these people, how one would measure that, I'm not sure, but certainly the representatives of these groups I spoke to appeared hostile to the notion of Rohingya enjoying full citizenship and the rights that go with it and I found this somewhat, somewhat depressing.
SNOWDON: Very briefly, did you meet the Rohingya community representatives?
CARR: Yes, I did.
SNOWDON: Were you shocked by what they told you?
CARR: No, I was aware of the condition of the Rohingya. It's received a lot of attention.
SNOWDON; You've taken a strong interest and you've been very critical of Aung San Suu Kyi's apparent  inaction on the issue. Did you press her to speak out more forcefully and what was her response?
CARR: I certainly raised it with her. I don't, I don't think you could say I was being strongly critical, but I've certainly raised it with her. She's aware of our concern, aware of our interest. She directed her comments to the responsibility of the government as she saw it to make a stronger statement on matters like the reports of a two child policy being directed at the Rohingya community, but not at the other communities in the country. So she is aware of Australia's concerns.
SNOWDON: Would she be a major force if she would take a stronger stand in your opinion?
CARR: It's not up to me to trespass to that extent into the world of Myanmar politics. 
SNOWDON: But you have used Minister, I'm sorry. You have used words like depressing and you're apprehensive about the future for the Rohingyas in the country?
CARR:  Indeed. And that follows my meeting not with the political leadership in Napyidaw, representatives of the other community, in Rakhine Province, who demonstrated a pronounced resistance to recognising the problem of the Rohingya and conceding them full citizenship rights.
It's like what I'm saying, I think we're a long way from a commitment to reconciliation. We're a long way from inter-faith dialogue. They're two things that I raised as an Australian representative, proffering back there's grounds on which we might be of some assistance. But I couldn't say we're at a point where people were saying we'd like to use the good offices of Australia to advance inter-faith dialogue and reconciliation.
SNOWDON: A post we've seen today on a radical Islamic web site claims that leaders from Myanmar's Rohingya community have been in Indonesia for talks with hardline groups there about recruiting fighters and weapons to use in their own country. What's that say perhaps about the risk of armed conflict. Would that raise your concerns ...
CARR: Well, there's certainly a risk. If people are left in the most distressing of circumstances, then it follows as the night the day that extremist groups will attempt to recruit them. The most effective starting point of countering recruitment to organisations directed at terrorism is to deal with the grievances of populations and that again, underlines the urgency of reconciliation and economic growth and expansion of educational opportunities in a Rakhine Province.
SNOWDON: Minister, on another topic. I'd ask for your response on the Indonesian courts' rejection of Australia's application to extradite alleged people smuggler, Sayed Abbas. Does that say that Australia's hopes of improving cooperation with Indonesia on this issue perhaps still have a long way to go?
CARR:  Indonesia has court processes, as does Australia. A prominent Indonesian has succeeded in the Australian court system in fighting extradition. The Indonesians want him, but the Australian courts, independent of the Australian government have said no. So the fact that a similar demonstration of judicial independence frustrates us in the Indonesian court system shouldn't distress us.
SNOWDON: So would it be helpful if Indonesia reviewed its legislation and put people smuggling as an extraditable offence to add that pressure from Australia perhaps, as a deterrent?
CARR: That we've got a win in the courts, we've got to win in the courts.
SNOWDON: That's what I'm saying, you need legislation, don't you?
CARR: Well no, we've got to win in the court system in Indonesia, as they when they're seeking to extradite someone and there's a prominent case only a month, they've got to win in the Australian courts.

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