This week I visited Myanmar to discuss the country’s development, economic transition and humanitarian and security challenges with government ministers, United Nations representatives, humanitarian partners and civil society and to see at first-hand the devastating humanitarian impact of the situation in Rakhine State.
I visited Baw Du Pha IDP camp in central Rakhine State where I met local authorities and humanitarian partners and saw how Australian support is helping people in need. The UN estimates that more than 1.8 million people in Myanmar and Bangladesh require humanitarian assistance, including more than 1.4 million Rohingya.
Australia is providing life-saving food, water and shelter, and health care services to the camps. It is also supporting children to continue their education and helping to keep women and girls safe from violence and trafficking. Australia will sustain our commitment to providing humanitarian assistance, targeted particularly at supporting women, children and people with a disability, and examine further humanitarian support options.
During meetings in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw, including with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, National Security Adviser and Minister for Investment and Foreign Economic Relations Thaung Tun, Minister for International Cooperation Kyaw Tin, Minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Dr Win Myat Aye, and Chair of the Myanmar Commission of Enquiry, former Philippines Ambassador to the United Nations HE Rosario Manalo, we discussed Myanmar’s ongoing efforts to address the crisis.
I raised the importance of allowing UN agencies ongoing access to affected areas and the important need to allow displaced people freedom of movement and access to full education, health and employment. I emphasised the importance of implementing the Kofi Annan-led Rakhine Advisory Commission recommendations as the framework for a long-term, durable solution to the crisis, and offered Australia’s humanitarian support.
The Rohingya crisis is a complex regional challenge and is the largest humanitarian crisis in our region. Alongside our humanitarian efforts, Australia will continue to work with Myanmar and our partners in the region, including through ASEAN, to strongly encourage efforts towards peace and reconciliation across Myanmar.
In Myanmar I also met with local media representatives to discuss Myanmar’s developing media sector and the role of a free press in the country’s transition to democracy. We also discussed the situation of jailed Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo.
After fifty years of military rule, Myanmar is a developing democracy in our region, holding its first democratic elections two years ago. Australia also supports access to education across Myanmar, development of economic governance and legislative capacity and efforts towards the peace process.