Written by U Ne Oo on 2001-08-28
As a grassroots lobbyist, I always appreciate whichever replies from people I have written to, and shared replies with the netters now and then. This one, I like to share the horrifying experience of writing to my local Federal MP, Trish Worth (Liberal). It was last year in July (2000), calling the Federal Government (Liberal & National Party Coalitions) their attention to drug trafficking and money laundering cases in Burma. Similar appeal letters were sent to the Prime Minister, Treasurer, Foreign Minister and Justice Minister (http://www.physics.adelaide.edu.au/~uneoo/a140800.html). As I have been the secretary of grassroots refugee advocacy group, NetIPR, I had also enclosed some press releases outlining the NetIPR's position on the issues of refugee, in particular boat people in Australia.
I suppose my report on Burma about drug trafficking and money laundering is clear enough for everyone who can READ English; No where did I mention in my report about "Burmese in Australia" are involved in drug trafficking and money laundering. Then again, read on the text of the MP Trish Worth's letter to the then Justice Minister, Hon. Amanda Vanstone.
MP Trish Worth's letter to myself is fine -- considered me as her "constituent", even though I've never vote anybody because I am refugee in Australia. Fine except for the fact that her letter misquoted about my considered stand on the issues of boat people in Australia. The reply letter indicated as if I were to sympathetic to the government's position on boat people's issue. My enclosed press releases by NetIPR would have made clear enough to anybody where we stand on the issue (read on the second letter below). By the way, the Australian Minister of Immigration press releases on refugees that came with her reply: I don't have to read two full sentence to be getting offended.
As I was rather upset, I picked up the phone and had told off the aides of MP Trish Worth that I consider the Australian Government's policy on refugees as "racist" and "discriminatory".
A BOAT OFF CHRISTMAS ISLAND
Currently, there are about 400 asylum-seekers from Afghanistan who being rescued by Norwegian freighter that are not being allowed by Australian government to land in Australian own Christmas Island. As for grassroots human rights activists -- though lacking in resources to help asylum-seekers in any significant way -- there is no such thing as we would be compromised to 'look the other ways'; or would 'pick and choose' in taking actions (this also mean extra workload for me). The timing of the incident, which coincides with the convening of WCAR in South Africa, sets to expose Australian government for what it is. Things are disturbing indeed.
Regards, U Ne Oo.
MP Trish Worth Letter to Hon Amanda Vanstone, Justice Minister. (Hon. Amanda Vanstone has now moved to another Cabinet portfolio)
17 August 2000
My constituent Dr U Ne Oo of 18 Shannon Place, Adelaide 5000 has written to me and amongst enclosures is a copy of his letter to you dated 4 July 2000.
As his letter deals with drug trafficking and money laundering by some members of the Burmese community and because of my involvement in the Tough on Durgs campaign, I would be grateful if I could be provided with copy of your response to him.
Trish Worth, Member for Adelaide.
MP Trish Worth's reply to me:
17 August 2000
Dear Dr Oo
Thank you for your letter of 10 August together with copies of correspondence you sent to my colleagues the Ministers for Justice and Customs and Immigration and Multicultural Affairs.
I am pleased you enjoyed reading my latest electorate newsletter and thank you for your kind remarks.
I read your letter to the Minister for Justice and Customs and have followed up the points you have made with her.
The number of unauthorised arrivals in Australia has become an increasing problem and the Government has implemented a series of measure to help combat the situation. I am enclosing copies of press releases issued by the Minister for Immigration and Multiculatural Affairs when the 2000/2001 federal budget was announced in May of this year and in which Australia's position outlined.
Thank you for taking the time to write to me as I appreciate knowing what my constituents are thinking.
Trish Worth, Member for Adelaide.
Comment on Australian Government position of Drug situation in Burma
(Posted on 22-June-2001) The ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) report (20-6-01) on heroin/mathamphatemine is well worth viewing; though for Burma internet-list subscribers already have substantial information regarding the matter. As far as I know, Professor Des Ball had written out the Burmese junta's involvement in drug trade in his paper since early 1999. Notably, it is the year Australian Government decided to provide Human Rights training program to the Burmese junta.Though it may be merely a coincidence; otherwise, we can also assume the Australian government has tried to save its face by forging closer tie with junta because Professor Ball's report in 1999 is quite severe in its nature.
According to ABC, the Thai Government formally request assistance from Australian government to suppress the flow of drugs from Burma. Substantial amount of drugs from Burma reach the Australian shore quite often - the amphetamines in fruit-can case is only one of them. As a matter of fact, I had written in July/August 2000 (see letters on my webpage) to the Australian Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Justice Minister, Treasurer including local Liberal politicians raising concern about drug trafficking and money laundering issues. I have had various responses from them & through media.
What I have gathered since then is that, although the anti-drug platform may be appealing to the current conservative government, government wouldn't make real efforts to weed-out drug trafficking or money laundering. The government seemed more concerned about being attacked on this issue by the opposition parties. Substantial amount of Burmese illicit-drugs may have come to Australia. But the Australian government seems to view that Burma is not the only place these illicit-drug could come from (Rationale: so why would bother).
Given the Clinton administration at that time was un-moved by the Burmese drug issues, the Australian government should have made initiative on anti-money laundering. Unfortunately, the Australian government seems to have no mood to introduce an anti-drugmoney laundering initiatives either. (Should the government introduced an anti-laundering bill last year, it might have practical application with recent collapse of HIH and One.Tel.) According to WMLR, a global money-laundering watchdog, the Labor opposition is on its way to introducing one. Let keep watching those.
Regards, Ne Oo.