Recent reports of an attack by the Burmese army on the small village of Serakparang in Ratheduang township, Western Myanmar has highlighted the plight of Rohingyan asylum seekers in limbo in Australian detention centres.
Serakparang is the home village of a Rohingyan refugee, Sayed Kasim, recently released from Villawood detention centre. Serakparang, which is inhabited by about 120 families, is a Muslim enclave surrounded by 24 Buddhist villages. It has been under military siege for the past week, according to reports from townspeople, received by Sayed.
Sayed Kasim managed to speak with his younger brother, who managed to escape. But women and children left behind are now un-contactable.
At 5pm on Tuesday 1 November, 3 members of the Burmese military (Nasaka) entered Serakparang with guns, and tried to rape women there.
The villagers grabbed and beat them, killing two.
In the ensuing fights, Sayed's niece's husband was killed, while an aunt and elder cousin were among the 30 people critically injured. 40 villagers have been arrested and are being held in Rathedaung prison.
The military has surrounded the village, aiming to prevent anyone from getting in and or out.
“This kind of harassment by the military often happens in Rohingya villages, with soldiers trying to rape women, stealing people's farmland and money," Kasim told the Refugee Action Coalition.
The Rohingya are a repressed Muslim minority living in Western Myanmar. According to the most recent statistics, 34 Rohingyan refugees are currently in detention in Australia.
Three of those 34, presently in Darwin detention centre, have been in detention for two years or longer. One of the Darwin three, received his ASIO security clearance in October, eighteen months after being accepted as a refugee. The other two are still waiting.
“What is happening in Serakparang is typical of the situation of Ronhingyans in Burma,” said Ian Rintoul, from the Refugee Action Coalition. “No Rohingyan can live safely in Myanmar. It is completely unacceptable that Australia locks them up and considers them as some kind of security threat. They flee persecution only to suffer further persecution at the hands of Immigration and ASIO here.”
“The Immigration department should immediately release Rohingyans and all other asylum seekers from detention while ASIO conducts their security checks. ASIO itself told a parliamentary enquiry in October that it is not a requirement under the ASIO Act for boat arrivals to be detained during security processing.”
“There is no excuse for keeping people locked up. We urge the government to follow the advice of Paul Keating on Monday’s 7.30 program and welcome refugees.
“Chris Bowen has recently agreed to review the deportation to Egypt of a Christian family living in Melbourne. He should now also immediately review the situation of all Rohingya in detention, and release them into the community while their claims are processed, as would have happened if they had arrived by plane.’
Sayed Kasim is available for interview.
More information: contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713; Nick Reimer 0435 533 027