Exiled Burmese students can hardly be apolitical

The Nation - July 28, 2000

From your report "Apolitical Burmese students preferred" [The Nation, July 21], I was shocked to learn that Australia, a country to which we, Burmese students, have owed a debt of gratitude for accepting a great number of us for resettlement, has recently shown a hard-to-swallow face to us.

I am a Burmese student who is in the middle of the process of resettling to Australia. Just because a handful of Burmese students have caused trouble in Thailand, should the rest be indiscriminately looked at in the same light?

Is it a problem that could jeopardise Thai-Australian relations if a resettled Burmese student, who has obtained Australian citizenship and become a doctor, returns to Thailand to help save the lives of tens of thousands of Burmese refugees along the Thai-Burmese border?

What about a journalist or a human rights activist?

Although the news item said Australia did not lay down resettlement conditions for Burmese students, it is obvious that some of us have been waiting for almost two years, and others for longer periods, which we have never experienced from any other third country except Canada.

It is a shame for Australia to slow down our resettlement process because of a hypothetical concern that Burmese students may try to return to Thailand to cause trouble.

What an irony that Australia plans to conduct human-rights training for the terrorist Burmese rulers in Rangoon who have destroyed the entire nation and its population. Countless Burmese people have been killed, intimidated, tortured and imprisoned.

We fled from Burma under grave fear of persecution. If Australia has a heart to deal with such a regime, why is it afraid of those of us who are innocent and stateless?

I would like to request the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and Canberra to please let us know as soon as possible which of us is or isn't eligible under the resettlement programme as there are none of us without a political background.

A Burmese Student