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Vietnamese Australians’ Community: Realities and Prospects

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A Vietnamese Australian is an Australian, either born in Vietnam or having Vietnamese ancestors. These people make up the community of Vietnamese Australians and contribute significantly to both the Australian and Vietnamese economies as well as the comprehensive partnership relationship between the two countries. The circumstance behind the establishment of this community, however, was anything but without incidents.

In 1975 Vietnam was liberated from the US-backed Saigon regime. The new united Vietnam, christened the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was then established. Since then, particularly between 1975 and 1990, many people who worked for the South Vietnam government left Vietnam to reside abroad, including in Australia. According to the 1991 National Census, there were 124,800 people born in Vietnam residing in Australia and in 2001 there were 154,000. In 2011 this figure rose to 185,000. In the same year there were 219,000 people who spoke Vietnamese at home. (1)

The greatest proportion of Vietnamese Australians lives in Sydney (with strong vibrant communities in Sydney’s west and south west) and Melbourne although many of the second generation now live throughout Australia. The social mix of the refugees included people from all professions and walks of life in Vietnam which is reflected in today’s Vietnamese Australian communities. Mahayana Buddhism is the main religion of the community, followed by Christianity both Catholic and Protestant. The main festivals observed by Vietnamese Australians include Tet Nguyen Dan, the Lunar (or Chinese) New Year, and Tet Trung Thu (the Mid-Autumn Festival).

The article will analyze the Vietnamese Australians’ contribution to the Commonwealth of Australia and Vietnam in terms of economic development, the forging of a multiracial and multicultural society as well as the promotion of the comprehensive partnership relationship between Vietnam and Australia. The article will analyze the current problems of the Vietnamese Australian Community and suggest measures to overcome these problems. The article will also forecast the prospect of Vietnamese Australian Community in Australia in the future and propose some suggestions to improve the role and status of Vietnamese Australians in both Australia and Vietnam.

1. Australia and Her Immigration Policy Towards Asian Refugees
Being a unique country created in a unique historical background, the nature of Australian nationalism and nation building has been considerably debated.
Australia was a colonial society generated in the period of the great imperialist competitions of the nineteenth century, having then accepted modern nationhood while still responding to the imperial imperatives of Great Britain. This colonial past has resulted in two unresolved consequences: The first of these imperatives remains the effective subjugation of the original nations, and their incorporation into each of the three subsystems. Much of contemporary debate about Indigenous issues reflects the “unfinished business” – both for the empire project and the people subject to it. The second imperative is the defence of the original imperial peoples against competing external empires (understood as cultural systems rather than militarily driven state invasions). They are both different faces of the Australian empire project: (i) the successful imposition in a new land of a cultural, political and economic system; (ii) and that system privileges and secures the interests of the colonizing peoples. The strategy has been presented as multiculturalism (since about 1975) and has sought to suppress the racial nature of Australian nationhood, through assertions of commitments to modern values of equality in cultural relations, and capacity to contribute to economic development in immigration policies.(2)

By 1966 under the Prime Minister Holt Edward (Liberal), Australia had signed the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Educated, English-speaking Asians were being accepted – reflecting the idea of orientation to modernity as the organizing principle around which race could be reduced as a criterion of population selection. A modernizing nation would accept modernized populations, as they were expected to share values of democracy and economic productivity, and be bearers of significant stores of human capital (created by the investment by their states of origin). The new ALP government in 1973 withdrew all racial references in the Immigration Act, expecting that the modernity model of non-White immigration would continue as the norm. Indeed, a central ideological tenet of global modernity was created for this purpose, the concept of multiculturalism and its programmatic implementation.

Initially the Australian government under Prime Minister Gough Whitlam (3) was reluctant to get involved with the inflow of Asian refugees in spite of the aforementioned convention. Yet the arrival of the fishing boat KG4435 at a wharf in Darwin in April 1976 during the next government led by Malcolm Fraser meant that there had to be actions to take. The boat was the first sign of what had been happening throughout Southeast Asia, and soon it became a problem faced by every Australian government thereafter.

Fraser’s government’s solution was to broker a deal with the Asian countries of first refuge. The goal was twofold: To take the refugee problem off public attention, yet at the same time manage their arrival so as not to interfere with the Australian national interest and integrity. The government proposed that if the countries would no longer refuel the boats and send them towards the undefended north Australian coast, then Australia would take 15,000 refugees a year from the camps. However, the Australian government would choose those refugees it wanted in relation to their ‘fit’ with Australian priorities – thus attempting to sustain the modernity framework for population intake (and, in the process, minimize those with disabilities etc. who might be a long term cost to Australia).  This became, more or less, a framework for later governments in dealing with refugee issues that persists until today (4).

Once the first wave of refugees had been contained and a system found to process them, Australia sought ways to manage the continuing pressures. This period is marked by two contradicting views of the two Prime Ministers Bob Hawke and John Howard. Prime Minister Bob Hawke argued that if the outsiders (refugees) are seen as strengthening the depth of the cultural resources of the community, the level of perceived threat to Australia is reduced. Criminal deviance can then be seen as a minority activity, requiring normal social control strategies, rather than reflecting the essential differences between communities, or defining the core of the culture of the “Others”. On the contrary, in the late 1980s, John Howard as an opposition leader considered the outsiders as a threat to social cohesion.(5)

This duality, at its root, represents the real issue with white (or previously settled) Australian’s view on Vietnamese refugees and the subsequent community. Given the insecurities and prejudice deeply rooted in history, how the “existing population” views the “newcomers” will play an important role in defining how well they would fit into the new society and their social roles in the years thereafter.

As social cohesion and the formation of a modern, internally consistent and stable Australia began to be called into question, the position of the Vietnamese community once again was the target of much debate. The gist of the modern Australian Empire Project is the creation of an Australia that can compete with nations in the world on equal footing while maintaining an advanced, progressive, democratic and developed society at home. To this goal, social cohesion is key element. Previously, ever since the arrival of the Vietnamese refugee community as a full-fledged ethnic group, there have been many arguments to and for multiculturalism and their role in promoting or undermining the Australian internal solidarity and social cohesion. At that time, these arguments were based more on cultural and social grounds than economic.

The argument involving social cohesion was extended to economic grounds in the wake of the proposal from Monash University’s Centre for Population and Urban Research. It stated that the Vietnamese were forming part of an emerging structural underclass.(6) As it happened, the Vietnamese community in Sydney, whose composition consisted of a large portion of ‘recent migrants who lack the skills to compete in the contemporary labour market’ (7) was found to be contributing to the sedimentation of poverty. The polarization of income groups had accelerated from 1976 to 1991, and intensified over the next five years. This period paralleled the rise in Vietnamese immigration; the impact of this polarization was most evident amongst the Vietnamese, and by implication may indeed have been a consequence of their presence.(8)
In sum, in that quarter century, a generation, a social revolution had occurred in Australia: from a society with White Australia as a recent and avowedly racist population selection policy, to an egalitarian policy now avowedly non-racist; from a society in which Asian faces were still extraordinary, to one where visible diversity is everywhere; and from a society with little sense of non-European cultures and traditions, to one where every Buddha’s birthday has senior politicians lining up to be seen at Vietnamese temples.

2. Immigration Reality from Vietnam to Australia
The community of Vietnamese Australians was established by refugees from the war in Vietnam and was the first large group of Asian immigrants to settle in Australia after the end of the White Australia policy in 1973. The migration of Vietnamese to Australia, which has occurred mostly during the last 40 years, has two distinct phases: (i) before Vietnam’s renovation policy with assisting orphans pre-1975 and refugee resettlement during 1975–1985; (ii) and after renovation policy with purpose of family reunions, since the late 80s.

2.1. Immigration from Vietnam to Australia Before Renovation Policy
From 1958, Vietnamese students started to arrive in Australia to study at universities under the Colombo Plan. Almost all of these students returned to Vietnam after finishing their courses. Meanwhile, Australia committed combat troops to the Vietnam War in 1965. Later, many of these troops and other Australians married Vietnamese people and brought them back to Australia. Additionally, as a result of war there were over 800,000 orphans in South Vietnam alone. Australian families adopted 537 Vietnamese orphaned babies and infants between 1972 and 1975. This was the beginning of the first wave of permanent Vietnamese migration to Australia. In 1975 there were only about 1,000 people born in Vietnam living in Australia consisting of 335 Colombo Plan students; 130 private Vietnamese students; and over 500 orphans adopted by Australian families.(9) 

After the fall of Saigon Regime in 1975, Australia, being a signatory to the “Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees” agreed to resettle its share of Vietnam-born refugees under a refugee resettlement plan between 1975 and 1985. In reality, Australia accepted Vietnam War refugees and arrivals of Vietnamese people increased rapidly. Once Prime Minister Fraser (from 11 November 1975 to 11 March 1983) had committed to taking the Vietnamese refugees, he was able to call on a shared liberal value set among his supporters in the Coalition, and the various spokespeople for the ALP Opposition, to fuse a solid wall of commitment to multiculturalism as the state ideology of inter-communal relations. Under this approach there was little argument about the Vietnamese policy at the level of parliamentary debate – other than to stress the need for services and the pressures to which government should respond.(10)

The resettlement of Vietnamese refugees did not happen without incidents. As refugees supported by the Australian government of the time, they were largely resettled in localities around the large migration centers. This is to say places like Cabramatta and Fairfield (Sydney), where already a relatively large population of previous immigrants – Yugoslavs, Italians, Russians, among others – existed. Unlike other postwar refugee communities, however, the Vietnamese community tended not to disperse from their initial place of settlement. As a result, they became a significant, condensed ethnic group in these localities, a fact that would fuel contention and public fallout for years to come.

Of these Vietnamese refugees, who arrived in the immediate post-war period, four main groups can be identified with different but in some cases overlapping arrival times: (i) the first group, arriving in 1975 was mostly elite Vietnamese, Chinese businessmen and Catholics. This group happened right before and after the liberation of South Vietnam; (ii) the second group arriving in 1976–78 was a gradually increasing outflow of refugees from camps outside Vietnam. In 1976 the first boat KG4435 arrived in Australia carrying refugees who had by-passed formal immigration procedures (11). Desperate to find a new home, they were accepted as immigrants on humanitarian grounds (see Table 1). Within three years a further 53 refugee boats had arrived; (iii) the third group, arriving in 1978, were mostly owners of private businesses, especially Chinese. Many of the boats that began to arrive in Australia had been refueled in Malaysia and then sent on their way. In addition, many of these refugees were not in fact boat people – but rather people being processed through refugee camps; (iv) The fourth group were so called ‘economic refugees’, mostly small traders, rural and urban workers and the unemployed. These left Vietnam during the socio-economic turmoil of the 1980s searching for a better life elsewhere and for the most parts weren’t fueled by political reasons.

Table 1: Vietnamese Population in Australia, 1976-2001

 

Census Year

Born in Vietnam

% change

The second generation

Speak Vietnamese

% change

% Australia- born speaking Vietnamese

1976

2,427

         

1981

41,096

   

n/a

   

1986

83,028

100

 

n/a

   

1991

121,813

50

25,151

110,817

 

16

1996

150,941

25

46,756

146,265

30

26

2001

154,831

3

n/a

174,236

20

n/a

Source:Andrew Jakubowicz, A Quintessential Collision:  Vietnamese in Australia after a generation of settlement

and adaptation, University of Technology Sydney, May 2004.

After the initial intake of refugees in the late 1970s, there was a second immigration peak in 1983-84, most likely a result of the 1982 agreement between the Australian and Vietnamese governments on the Orderly Departure Program (ODP), which allowed relatives of Vietnamese Australians to leave Vietnam and migrate to Australia. This means that ODP emphasized family reunion, and two-thirds of arrivals over the next few years were women. Then the first immigrants from Vietnam under this program arrived in Australia in 1982. Within a few years the Vietnam-born population of Australia would again double. A third immigration peak in the late 1980s seems to have been mainly due to Australia’s family reunion scheme. At the 1981 census, there were 41,096 people born in Vietnamese in Australia, a very large increase from the 1976 level (see Table 1). (12)

2.2 Vietnamese Immigration to Australia Since Renovation Policy (1986)
In 1986 the Vietnamese government committed to the Doi Moi (renovation) Policy, liberalizing the market and undertaking structural reforms needed to modernize the economy and produce more competitive, export-driven industries. The July 1989 International Conference adopted a Comprehensive Plan of Action that would have the effect of reducing the acceptance rate, increasing delays, and leaving about 40,000 rejected applicants in camps who refused to go back to Vietnam. In the wake of this situation the boats began to arrive again, with about 2,000 Indochinese arriving between 1989 and 1995, though the Vietnamese were few in numbers. The situation they faced had changed dramatically from what was before. These arrivals were now detained in camps in remote parts of Australia, facing arduous checks on their bona fides. When a couple walked out of one camp in 1992, security was intensified, based on a supposition that all unauthorized arrivals might seek to escape from lawful custody. All unauthorized arrivals, therefore and thereon, had to be interned under high security.

However, from the late 1980s Australia’s family reunion program was officially applied, called the ‘Vietnamese Family Migration Program’ (VFMP). Over 90,000 refugees were processed and entered Australia during this time. By the 1990s, the number of Vietnam-born migrating to Australia had surpassed the number entering as refugees. Between 1991 and 1993, the percentage of Vietnam-born migrants had reached 77% of the total intake of Vietnam-born arriving in Australia. By 1996 Vietnamese immigration had effectively ceased – tough new rules on family reunion made by the Howard government (from 11 March 1996) meant that there was a net increases of less than 4,000 over the 1996-2001 census period. Meanwhile the community was reflecting many of the characteristics of a mature group: for instance, by 2001 over one in four Vietnamese speakers was Australian born, while in 1996, 86% of Vietnamese had adopted Australian citizenship; and by 2000, the percentage of Vietnam-born migrants had climbed to 98%. In 2001-2002, 1,919 Vietnam-born migrants and 44 humanitarian entrants settled in Australia (see Figure 1). (13)

In the 2001 census, the 155,000 people of Vietnamese ancestry were first or second generation Australians; first generation Australians of Vietnamese ancestry outnumbered second generation Australians with Vietnamese ancestry (74%: 26%). Relatively few people of Vietnamese ancestry stated another ancestry (6%). Among the leading ancestries, the proportion of people who spoke a language other than English at home was highest for those of Vietnamese (96%). (14) At the 2006 census, 173,663 Australian residents declared themselves to be of Vietnamese ancestry.

fig02

In more recent years the vast majority of Vietnamese migrants have come to Australia through the Family Stream although there are growing numbers of skilled migrants. Permanent migration refers to the number of visas granted in any given year, without taking into account whether the visa recipient actually arrived and settled in Australia. In 2012-13, 30% of permanent visas granted to Vietnamese nationals were skilled visas, up from 17 per cent in 2009–10. A total of 5,339 Vietnamese nationals were granted a permanent visa through Australia’s Migration Programme in 2012–13, with the Family Stream accounting for 70% of visas granted. Of permanent migration, skilled migration focuses on facilitating the permanent entry of those who can make a positive contribution to Australia through their skills, qualifications, entrepreneurial spirit and employment potential. In 2012–13: (i) among the 128 & 973 skilled visas were granted, Vietnamese nationals accounted for 1.2% (1,592 grants) of the total. Compared to 2011–12, skilled visas granted to Vietnamese nationals rose by 49%. This represented an overall rise of 136% since 2009−10 and the highest on the record.  Much of this recent growth can be explained by a large increase in Employer Sponsorship, from 392 grants in 2011–12 to 898 grants in 2012−13, a 129% increase; (ii) Skilled visas granted to Vietnamese nationals accounted for nearly one-third (30%) of all permanent visas granted. While this share is low compared to most other countries it has increased from a share of 17% in 2009−10. Vietnam moved back to 15th position as source of skilled migrants in 2012–13 after falling to 19th in 2011−12; (iii) Points Tested Skilled Migration accounted for 34% of all skilled visas issued to Vietnamese nationals. Accountants, cooks and software and applications programmers were among the main occupations for new Points Tested Skilled Migration visa holders.

In addition, family migration facilitates the entry of close family members of Australian citizens, permanent residents and eligible New Zealand citizens. The programme is currently dominated by partners and dependent children, but also provides options for other family members, such as Carers, Parents and Aged Dependent Relatives. In 2012–13: (i) 60 cases of 185 family visas were granted, with grants to Vietnamese nationals accounting for 6.2% (3,716 grants) of the total. This made Vietnam the fifth largest provider of Family migrants to Australia; (ii) permanent family visas granted through the Migration Programme were 2.7% higher, but for Vietnamese nationals they were only increased by 0.8%: (iii) the Family Stream accounted for 7 in 10 permanent visas granted to Vietnamese Nationals – 73% of visas granted in this stream were to partners of an Australian resident.

Permanent additions are the sum of those granted a permanent residency visa while in Australia and those granted a visa through an Australian mission abroad, who has entered Australia during the respective reporting period. In 2012–13, there were 5,940 Vietnam-born permanent additions to the Australian resident population. Among these new additions there are: (i) Skill Stream comprising 750 skilled migrants and 784 accompanying family members and accounted for 26% of all permanent additions; (ii) Family Stream, made up of 4087 migrants and accounted for 69% of all permanent additions; (iii) Non-programme Vietnamese-born New Zealand citizens account for 2.9% of all permanent additions (se Figure 1). (15)

Apart form that, the subclass 457 visa programme allows Australian employers to sponsor foreign workers for employment in management, professional, technical and skilled trades’ positions. The programme is demand-driven and highly responsive to Australian labour market conditions. In 2012–13 demand for this visa remained high and increased from 125,070 in 2011–12 to 126,350 – an 86% rise since 2009–10: (i) In 2012–13, 1310 subclass 457 visas were granted to Vietnamese nationals – 115% higher than 2011–12 and 245% higher than the number granted in 2009–10; (ii) Among the Vietnamese workers sponsored under this programme, café and restaurant managers, accountants and cooks were the main occupation for which Australian employers recruited from abroad.(16)

By the end of 2013, there were 215,000 people born in Vietnam were resident in Australia and over 250,000 people speaking Vietnamese at home. This is equivalent to 3.5% of Australia’s overseas-born population (17). There may additionally be persons of Vietnamese descent born in Australia, or of arguably non-Vietnamese ancestries (such as Cantonese) born in Vietnam.(18) About 0.9% of the Australian resident population was born in Vietnam. Today the Vietnam-born represent the fifth largest migrant community in Australia behind the United Kingdom (mainly from England and Scotland), New Zealand, China, and Italy, and after the United States of America, Australia is the second most common destination for Vietnamese migrants.(19)

2.3 The Advantages and Disadvantages of Vietnamese Australian Community
Vietnamese Australians vary in income and social class levels. Vietnam-born Australians are highly represented in Australian universities and many professions (particularly as information technology workers, engineers, doctors and pharmacists), while other members in the community are subject to high unemployment rates. As the Vietnamese presence continued to grow (no longer primarily refugees but ODP immigrants), the normalizing of the population change process intensified local antagonisms. The popular press made much of what was seen as an emerging crime problem, though in 1987, it was found that the situation was much less fearsome than the public discourse might suggest. For instance, Vietnamese minors were 50% less likely to offend than the community norm; unaccompanied minors were even less likely to offend; while the rate was rising it was still very much lower than the community norm. Vietnamese had a much lower violent crime rate: drug offences in 1987 were 75% of the norm; and the suburbs in which the Vietnamese were concentrated had less crime than before their arrival. (20) Even so, youth crime became the trope through which the fears about social cohesion were voiced. However, since 2000, the vast majority of Vietnamese migrants to Australia came through the Family Stream (although there have been growing numbers of skilled migrants). The income of this group is more than the average rate of the Vietnamese Australian community.

Over three-quarters of people born in Vietnam live in New South Wales (39%) and Victoria (37%) (21)(see Table 2). In Melbourne the suburbs of Richmond, Footscray, Springvale, Sunshine and St Albans have a significant proportion of Vietnamese-Australians, while in Sydney they are concentrated in Bankstown, Cabramatta, Canley Vale and Fairfield. Other places of significant Vietnamese presence include Brisbane, where many have settled in suburbs like Darra and Inala. For most of the decade after 1986, the focus was on the Vietnamese communities of Sydney and Melbourne.

Table 2: National geographical distribution, by Vietnamese-born and Vietnamese nationals (%)

National geographic distribution

NSW

Vic.

Qld

SA

WA

Tas

NT

ACT

Proportion of all persons counted in the Census, 2011

30

25

20

7

10

2

1

2

Proportion of all Vietnamese-born counted in the Census, 2011

39

37

9

6

7

0

0

2

Geographical distribution, permanent additions, 2012−13

 

Skill Stream (primary)

23

27

27

10

10

0

1

2

Skill Stream (dependent)

17

19

42

11

8

0

1

1

Geographical distribution, temporary entrants, 2012−13

 

International students

30

45

10

5

6

0

0

2

Temporary Work (Skilled) (subclass 457) visa (primary)

39

20

18

4

16

0

1

3

Permanent departure

 

All Vietnamese-born permanent resident

57

21

8

2

9

0

1

2

Source: Information on migrants has come from internal data collected by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

Information on the geographical distribution of the total population was sourced from the 2011 Census of Population and Housing

Of particular note, Vietnamese Australians have an exceptionally low rate of return migration to Vietnam. In December 2001, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) estimated that there were 3,950 Australian citizens resident in Vietnam. It is not clear what proportion of this number are returned emigrants with Australian citizenship or their Vietnamese Australian children, and what number are simply other Australians in Vietnam for business or other reasons. The greater proportion (3,000) was recorded in the south of the country. (22) What this means, among others, is that the community of Vietnamese Australians is relatively stable – they have come to stay for the rest of their lives.

3. Vietnamese Australian Community’s Contribution to Commonwealth of Australia and Vietnam
3.1. Role of the Vietnamese Australians to Economic Development and Multiracial Society of Australia
Today over 250.000 Australians are Vietnam-born, a mix of Viet and Chinese ethnicities, of which 25% are white collar professionals, whilst 28% work in transport, production and laboring. They enjoy strong community networks, and make a distinctive cultural contribution to Australian life and commerce. Features of Australia’s Vietnamese-born migrants are as follows: (i) The median age of 42.8 years was 5.5 years above that of the general Australian population; (ii) Females slightly outnumbered males – 53% compared with 47%; (iii) In August 2013, their labour force participation rate of 61% was slightly below the national average of around 65%; (iv) The unemployment rate at August 2013 was 7.8% – this is higher than average and above the national rate of 5.8%; (v) In August 2013, 107 000 Vietnam-born people were working in Australia. Their main occupations were labourers (19%), technicians and trade workers (15%) and professionals (14%).(23)

The arrival of the Vietnamese refugees and the culture clash and social paranoia that ensued as a result thereof was an unfortunate, yet natural, course when two wildly differing peoples made contact so suddenly, as has been examined in the above section. Yet more fascinating still is the growth of said community between the first arrival and present day. From 1975 until now, the Vietnamese community in Australia grew from near-nonexistence to a 250 thousand-strong ethnic minority. With this growth came an accompanying identity, which, in and of itself, contributed in many ways to the socio-political scene of the host country.

As a result, by 2012 the second generation was a significant part of Australian political, economic and cultural life. (24) Today there are Vietnamese newspapers, a community literary and cultural website as well as radio stations and regular SBS television programs. Vietnamese community organizations thrive and are involved in community development, advocacy and social work. Community members play an increasing role in local government as well as representation in the Upper Houses of Australian states. Vietnamese Australians are also well represented in the arts and the professions.

A far larger portion of Vietnamese are less successful, but do contribute to Australian society in their own ways. Many Vietnamese set up their own businesses, often working hard to put their children through school and university. Vietnamese small businesses gradually transformed streetscapes in suburbs like Richmond and Springvale into vibrant, restaurant and retail centers. Those who participate in these works do so mostly for survival. They have a long history of being overworked and underpaid until the Australian social activist community began to take action supporting their interest. (25) The result of these social movements is doubtful at best: The report found large numbers of Vietnamese workers still working for low pay, often being defrauded and suffering from exhaustion. (26)

For whatever motives, the contribution was made: their income was vital to the family, and the work often involved all the family. Thus, Vietnamese workers and their families have played a crucial part in the survival of many industries, particularly the Australian clothing one, literally sacrificing themselves in the work (suffering repetition and other injuries) so that their children can stay at high school, and successfully go on to university. The mentality behind this act of apparent sacrifice will be discussed in the following section.  
All these achievements stand testimony to the fact that the Vietnamese Australian community has gone a long way by any standards. There are a number of factors affecting this interaction process as follows:  

First, there is the political climate of the time. It was a stormy ride for the fledgling community since day one: They have constantly been used, positively or otherwise, in such political movements and upheavals as  the real end of White Australia in the late 1970s. In the early 1980s  their presence was again used as evidence in support of the abandonment of bi-partisanship on multiculturalism. In the following decade the community was centrally embroiled in the emergence of a politics of race in the 1990s, providing case studies for the vehement demagoguery of the One Nation party and their allies, while also providing widespread support for Australia’s first significant antiracist political party, Unity.
To this end, the Vietnamese Community in Australia has contributed to and revealed the deep instability of the Australian empire project, yet has also highlighted its resilience and capacity to adapt to and incorporate potential threats (27). Whether or not these incidents were for the better or worse of the Vietnamese Australian community, they have found themselves unwittingly at the eye of the storm of change in the Australian political thoughts of the era.

Second, it is the coincidental affinity of the Vietnamese culture with the pro-education, meritocratic environment of modern Australia. The Vietnamese culture considers education and successes in studies, one of the greatest values to be had. Within both Buddhist and Catholic Vietnamese communities, there is an assertion of the value of education, and a belief in the potential for individuals to realize their aspirations through education. Such a belief was rooted deeply in the history of the country, since the time of the Vietnamese Imperial exams, the last of which was still held towards the end of the Nguyen Dynasty. In an Australian environment that encourages educational participation, in which a globally focused modernity permeates elite and middle class cultures, meritocratic rules of selection compete with racist structures of exclusion. The Vietnamese dedication to academic excellence, hence, has found an excellent thriving ground. It was no surprising that a significant part of the Vietnamese community makes it through these hurdles – although a marginalized minority fails to do so. This also explains the degree of sacrifice Vietnamese Australian parents have been undertaking for the education of their children, as touched upon above.

Third, globalization of intellectual elites, proliferation of modern ideas of self-actualization brought into existence by the aforementioned high levels of education and meritocracy. This seems to manifest in the drive for self-actualization and the search for a new identity for themselves among Vietnamese Australian of the second-generation and beyond. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than during the Viet Pop exhibition (mobilized by community arts worker Cuong Le) – the text panel concludes with the words “the search for identity” is what young Vietnamese Australians are.

 Fourth (and the least fortunate) is the marginalization and failure to cope with the new environment seen in a significant part of the Vietnamese Australian population. Statistics are harrowing: Drawing on Victorian police reports, Vietnamese-born offenders processed for all crimes increased by nearly 40% from 1993 to 1997 – compared with a state rise of about 2%. Violent crime fell from about 350 offenders to 200, while drug offences rose from 220 to 1000. (28) Apart from that, a Commonwealth Parliamentary inquiry in 1995 into Asian Organized Crime made particular reference to the Vietnamese involvement in crime. In a detailed summary they identified a range of claims by police and law enforcement bodies across Australia, indicating that Vietnamese gangs were involved in heroin importation, sales and distribution, extortion, and home invasions. The concerns about the gangs in the Vietnamese community were widely held, and fuelled the growing antipathy to the community. (29)

This factor cannot and should not be taken out of context of the political difficulties mentioned above. The political turmoil and rejections as well as the failure to cope with the Australian environment has played a vital part in impoverizing and driving to crime a part of the Vietnamese Australian youth (30). They experience the strains too dramatically, and in their anomic reactions find alternative pathways to seeking (usually not successfully) economic success – often through crime as has typically occurred in other societies for newer immigrant groups, and in the past in Australia.(31)

Therefore, it is not surprising that the Vietnamese have drawn a fair amount of attention from social scientists and scholars interested in the ways in which cultural interaction, adaptation and change occur. (32) They were refugees from a colonial society escaping the aftermath of civil war, and entered a society that had been a protagonist on one side of that war. Many in the host society had hoped the war had been fought so that the population of Vietnam would stay in their own country, while others had supported the forces that won the war and triggered the exodus.

3.2 Role of the Vietnamese Australians to Economic Development of Vietnam and Promotion of Comprehensive Partnership Relationship between Vietnam and Australia

Economic opportunity is a huge driver for emigration (particularly among the educated). For this reason some 27.1% of Vietnam’s tertiary-educated population live abroad. Despite solid and continuing growth in Vietnam, economic development throughout the country is uneven and gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is comparatively very low. This provides high incentives for Vietnamese nationals to leave in the hope of better economic prospects in countries like Australia, where on a purchasing power parity basis GDP per capita is more than 10 times higher (see Table 3).

Table 3: Economic and Human Development Indicators of Australia and Vietnam, 2013

Indicator

Australia

Vietnam

Adult literacy (%)

99.0

93.2

Fertility rates (children per female)

1.9

1.8

GDP per capita PPP (US$)

44,074

3,750

Life expectancy at birth (years)

82.0

75.4

Mean years of schooling

12.0

5.5

Human Development Index (HDI) (33)

0.938

0.617

Median age (years)

36.9

28.2

Population (millions)

22.9

89.7

Population growth (%)

1.8

1.1

Source: Most data in this table comes from the UNDP Human Development Report 2013, the CIA World Fact book and, the International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database April 2013. Data on the size, growth and median age of Australia’s population was sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The Vietnamese Australian community, in that backdrop, is in a unique position to impact on the economic development in Vietnam. Equally uniquely are they qualified in aiding the comprehensive partnership relationship between Vietnam and Australia. They have many means at their disposal to these ends:

Firstly, they are a significant economic driver, expressed through such channels as remittances, business and investment. There are many commercial centres of Vietnamese throughout Australia. Most notable is the contribution of the Vietnamese Australian Community’s Entrepreneur Association, established with the support of Vietnam’s Embassy in Australia. This Association with more than 200 members was inaugurated on 3rd July 2010 to support and assist the Vietnamese Australian community’s entrepreneurs in undertaking business opportunities in Australia and Vietnam as well as other countries in the world. They have been making a positive contribution to the promotion of trade between the two countries as well as the supporting of the Vietnamese Australian business community.

With their economic capacity, the Vietnamese Australian business people have been increasingly investing into Vietnam. This has proven to be a growing source of remittances. According to World Bank data, remittances into Vietnam were US$9 billion in 2011, around seven times greater than in 2000 and equivalent to eight per cent of Vietnam’s GDP, making Vietnam one of the top ten remittance recipients. Remittances of the Vietnamese Australian community accounted for about 25% of total remittances of overseas Vietnamese all over the world. (34) On average, remittances from Australia increase by 10 – 15% per year, contributing to stabilizing Vietnam’s international balance of payment as well as socio-economic development. In previous period, remittances were mainly for helping families and relatives, but now this money is also used for business and/or macroeconomic purposes: investments in industries, contributions to poverty reduction and elimination, job creation and local welfare guarantee.

Secondly, the Vietnamese Australian community possesses many young, dynamic intellectuals with a lot of financial potentials, business and management experiences as well as high educated knowledge who have integrated into Australian societies. Through their skills and integrity they have acquired and held many political and economic positions in Australia and highly respected by many. Mr. Hieu Van Le, Governor of South Australia State, Chairman of the South Australian Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission is one exemplary person.  
The third and second generation who have been working in various crucial sectors of Australian economy such as information technology, electronics, composite materials, ecology, commerce, law, accounting and so on, have gradually replaced the first in Community operations. In recent years, every year there are many Vietnamese Australian experts, specialists, scientists, professors returning to Vietnam to take part effectively in teaching, textbook writing, consultation, knowledge, technological transfers and so on. They are cooperating with domestic experts, scientists, specialists and scholars to carry out research programs, to implement R&D projects, to bridge Australian universities and institutes with Vietnamese ones. Besides, thanks to their access to Australia’s advanced technologies and the understanding of the world development trends, the Vietnamese Australians may suggest and comment on the building of Vietnamese legislation and the making of policies for better socio-economic development and international integration.

Thirdly, the Vietnamese Australians have become the important bridge to help Vietnam expand bilateral relationship between Vietnam and Australia. With their influences to various Australian authorities, the Vietnamese Australians can promote economic, trade and political relations between Vietnam and Australia, and mobilize Australian support in international forums. This can be considered a crucial factor contributing to the Vietnamese implementation of her expanded foreign policies: diversified and multilateral foreign relations policies, so as to contributing to national building and defence. Moreover, the Vietnamese Australians have the unique advantage of living and working in Australia and tend to have close ties with other countries and peoples as a result of this. Therefore, they are a real force to diffuse, popularize and broadcast Vietnam’s culture, image of country and people to Australia and the world through cultural festival, food and tourism promotion, exhibition and trade fairs.

Fourthly, the Vietnamese Australian Community is also instrumental in protect the country from hostile activities of the enemies. Nowadays, there are more than 100 hostile organizations and groups including many in Australia (such as Viet Tan) who used to be soldiers and officers of the South Vietnam regime. They have ever been trying to contact reactionaries inside the country to obstruct and sabotage Vietnam’s socio-economic development efforts, particularly in the remote and mountainous areas. They have illegally carried out missionary works in the areas to provoke ethnic minorities into protesting against Communist Party and government of Vietnam. In recent years, they have been taking advantage of such issues as democracy, human right, and freedom of religion to organize meetings to slander and distort the policies of Vietnam government.

It should be made clear that the base of power of these subversive elements lie within a small portion of the Vietnamese Australian Community. As long as they can sway the overseas Vietnamese’s opinion to their way of thinking, the Vietnamese people and government’s goal of upholding national unity and integrity will be severely challenged. On the other hand, if they should fail to rally overseas Vietnamese to their cause, it will be very difficult for them to do any real and lasting damage. The cooperation of the Vietnamese Australian community, hence, plays a role that cannot be overstated in maintaining national unity. In that context, the Vietnamese Australian community has correctly explained the policies and guidelines of Government and CPV, as well as disclosed their plots and hostile activities to Australian Government and people (for example, Lawyer Tran Ba Phuc in Melbourne).    

        
3.3. Solutions and Suggestions to Improve the Role of the Vietnamese Australians in Australia and Vietnam
The Vietnamese Australian Community has continuously been growing both in number and quality. In recent years, apart from the vast majority of Vietnamese migrants through the Family Stream, there have been a growing number of skilled migrants. The Vietnamese Australian community has grown to almost 250,000 people at the end of 2013, excluding the 24,000 Vietnamese students at Australian schools and universities.  Of this number there have been more and more successful Vietnamese Australians in political, economic and artistic fields.
Although deeply and widely integration into the Australian economy and society, there are many issues involving the Vietnamese Australian community that needs to be addressed in order to enhance their role in both Australia and Vietnam. There are such issues as the loss of the Vietnamese cultural root among the later generations of Vietnamese Australian Community, the rate of crime – especially drug-related crimes – among the poorer Vietnamese Australians, the loss of faith in the government of Vietnam and the Communist Party of Vietnam (or worse, the development of dissident thoughts and movements). From the Vietnamese side, there are a number of solutions the Vietnamese government can undertake: (i) stimulate the second and third generations to keep learning Vietnamese as well as maintain the Vietnamese cultural traditions and identity by providing textbooks and cultural products; (ii) promote their investment in Vietnam by means of such concessions as visa exemption, residence, investment incentives, tax holidays… as much as is within reasons; (iii) mobilize and incentivize Vietnamese Australian scientists, scholars and professors to work in Vietnam by provisions of  material incentives and preferential treatments; (iv) maintain the community’s ties with the homeland by providing them with information of current situation in Vietnam as well as achievement in political and economic affairs, supporting them to organize food and cultural promotion of Vietnam in Australia; (v) closely cooperate with the Australian authorities to counter Vietnamese Australian criminal activities, especially in drugs and human trafficking; (vi) Strengthen diplomatic information service to inform Vietnamese Australian of the true picture in Vietnam and counter slanders and misinformation spread by subversive elements hostile to the Vietnamese national unity.

At the same time, with diligence, skill and brain, the Vietnamese Australians treated fairly, supported and facilitated by Australian government to study at the universities and vocational colleges, will contribute a lot to Australia. In addition, with the dynamic development of East Asia, the Vietnamese Australians can be used by Australian Government as a cultural and economic bridge between Australia and the East Asian countries in general and between Australia and Vietnam in particular. Apart from that, with the support of both Vietnamese and Australian authorities, the establishment of Vietnamese center (town) will give rise to even greater multiculturalism of Australia.  

4. Conclusion
For Vietnamese Australians, the strive for integration and assimilation into the greater Australian society was defining in many ways. In this long journey of more than forty years that have seen both the best and the worst in the Australian mindset, their efforts have in general paid off. In 2013 there are almost 250,000 thousand Vietnamese Australians in a community that has largely melded with the Australian society. Throughout this journey, they have made many contributions, both good and bad, for or against their own interest, to the Australian process of building a modern, democratic, non-discriminatory and civilized society.

However, this does not mean the role of policymakers should henceforth end. The contribution of Vietnamese Australians to both countries and to their relationship with each other is so significant that the community needs constant nurturing, promotion and accommodation. A strong, mature, civilized and modern Vietnamese Australian community will play a pivotal role in strengthening both Australia and Vietnam, as well as bridging the two countries whose culture and politics do not always see eye-to-eye. This paper seeks, then, to provide some assessment and suggestion for policymaking to pursue those ends. This is an endeavor that will require not only the close coordination and participation of the Vietnamese government, but also cooperation between Vietnam and Australia and the political will to commit to comprehensive joint actions.

 

(1)As many as a quarter of Vietnamese speakers in Australia are of Chinese ancestry but there is no real divide between ethnic Vietnamese and ethnic Chinese Vietnamese communities.

(2)Andrew Jakubowicz, A Quintessential Collision: Vietnamese in Australia after a generation of settlement and adaptation, University of Technology Sydney, May 2004.

(3)He used to be Army minister during the Vietnam War.

(4)For example, in conjunction with the Vietnamese government’s orderly departure program. See more in: Viviani, N., 1980, Australian government policy on the entry of Vietnamese refugees in 1975, Centre for the Study of Australian-Asian Relations Griffith University.

(5)Social cohesion’ was after all a central concern of the empire project – what sort of deal needed to be struck with incomers to ensure that the social order was not destabilized? The original strategies of assimilation had faltered as they did not address the realities of communal processes of survival and the critical role of culture in human identity and social engagement.

(6)Birrell B. and Seol B.-S., 1998, ‘Sydney’s ethnic underclass’, People and Place, Vol. (6) 3.

(7)Healy E., 1997, “1996 Census Update – Residential Concentrations of Vietnam-Born people in Melbourne and Sydney”, People and Place, Vol. 5(3).

(8)Tran, M.V., Holton, R. J., 1991, Sadness is losing our country, happiness is knowing peace: Vietnamese social mobility in Australia, 1975-1990, Canberra: Office of Multicultural Affairs.

(9)However, that before 1975 Vietnam was not separately recorded as a country of birth for settlers so the Australian Bureau of Statistics is unable to provide an exact picture of settler intake prior to this time.

(10) Lewins F. W. and Ly J., 1985, The first wave: the settlement of Australia’s first Vietnamese refugees, Sydney: Allen & Unwin; Viviani N., 1984, The long journey: Vietnamese migration and settlement in Australia, Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press.

(11) People sailing out of Vietnam to wherever would take them; if they survived from pirates, storms and unsafe boats. Many of the boats that began to arrive in Australia had been re-fuelled in Malaysia and then sent on their way.

(12)Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Social Trends, 1994 : Population Growth: Birthplaces of Australia’s settlers, Canberra 1995.

(13)In the 2001 census almost all people of Vietnamese ancestry were first or second generation Australians, consistent with the timing of Vietnamese immigration, which essentially began in the mid-1970s and increased over the 1980s (Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Social Trends, 2003: Population characteristics: Ancestry of Australia’s population, Canberra 2004).

(14)In 2001, the Vietnamese language was spoken at home by 174,236 people in Australia. Vietnamese is the sixth most widely spoken language in the country after English, the Chinese languages, Italian, Greek and Arabic. See: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Social Trends, 2003: Population characteristics: Ancestry of Australia’s population, Canberra 2004.

(15) Australia Government, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Country Profile – Vietnam, Canberra 2013.

(16) Australia Government, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Ibid.

(17)Between 1975 and 1986, almost all of the Vietnamese arrivals were refugees. This decreased to around 45 per cent between 1986 and 1991 and only 22% between 1991 and 1993. By 2000 the Vietnamese humanitarian arrivals were less than 2% of the total Vietnamese settler arrivals.

(18)Australian Bureau of Statistics, Country of Birth of Person by Sex – Australia, Canberra 2007.

(19)Australia Government, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Country Profile – Vietnam, Canberra 2013.

(20)This is partly thanks to almost Vietnamese Australians follow one of the religions. According to census data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2012, Vietnamese Australians are, by religion, 30.3% Catholic, 0.4% Anglican, 3.1 other Christian, 55.2% other religions (mainly Buddhist with Taoism and Ancestor Worship   as one), and only 11.0% no religion.

(21)Australian Bureau of Statistics, Ibid.

(22)Australia Government, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Country Profile – Vietnam, Canberra 2012.

(23)Australia Government, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Country Profile – Vietnam, Canberra 2013

(24)Indeed, in June 2002 in the outer Sydney suburb of Liverpool a group of twenty-something Vietnamese Australians created ‘Viet Pop’, a celebration of their experience as ‘Generation 2’. Through music, performance, art and photography they sought to capture the multiplicity of identities, challenges and creative engagements that characterized their lives in this metropolis to which their parents had fled a generation before. In addition, in the 2003 Centenary Awards identified eight Vietnamese Australians for recognition – from SBS radio’s Quang Luu to Fairfield Unity Party councillor Thang Ngo.

(25)Alcorso C., 1991, Non-English Speaking Background Immigrant Women in the Workforce, Centre for Multicultural Studies, University of Wollongong.

(26)Cregan C., 2001, Home sweat home: Preliminary findings of the first stage of a two-part study of outworkers in the textile industry in Melbourne, Melbourne: Department of Management, Melbourne University.

(27)Hage G., 2002, White nation: fantasies of white supremacy in a multicultural society, 2nd Edition, Sydney: Pluto Press.

(28)The figures were provided by Mukherjee of the Australian Institute of Criminology in 1999 (Melbourne).

(29)Parliamentary Joint Committee on the National Crime Authority, 1995.

(30)Robert Merton first theorised such situations in his studies in the 1940s of anomie and alienation in ethnic neighbourhoods of Chicago, and reflected on a sociological modelling of dis/organised crime. Merton proposed models of adaptation by immigrant communities facing existing hierarchies of status and privilege that produced dysfunctional outcomes he labelled as ‘alienation’ and ‘anomie’, drawing on but going beyond Durkheim’s theoretical conclusions about the dynamics of suicide. Merton argued for a model that linked personal values and aspirations to social structure and mobility pathways. He suggested that the critical link was between aspiration and opportunity. ‘Anomie’ occurred where individuals had internalised wider societal values and aspirations but found that the legitimate pathways to achieve those goals were blocked – thus leading to the development of alternative pathways and structures. ‘Alienation’ referred to a process when the very values of the wider society were rejected, and alternative values with little chance of their realisation, emerged.

(31)See more in: (i) Featherstone, R. and Deflem, M., 2003, ‘Anomie and Strain: Context and Consequences of Merton’s Two Theories’, Sociological Inquiry 73(4): 471-489; (ii) Merton, R. K., 1938, ‘Social Structure and Anomie’, American Sociological Review, No 3(October): 672-682.

(32)Kawakami, I. 2003 ‘Resettlement and Border Crossing: A Comparative Study on the Life and Ethnicity of Vietnamese in Australia and Japan’, International Journal of Japanese Sociology 12(1): 48-67.

(33)The HDI produced by the UN is a composite measure of three dimensions of human development – health, education and income. Australia ranks very high on this measure, with a 2012 score of 0.94, second only to Norway. Comparatively, Vietnam’s HDI in 2012 was 0.62, ranking the country 127 out of 186 countries. The HDI of East Asia and the Pacific in 2012 was 0.68.

(34) In term of remittance, Vietnam was the number 2 in South East Asia and the number 9 in the world in 2012.

C. Main Reference
1. Andrew Jakubowicz, Vietnamese in Australia: A Quintessential  Collision, University of Technology Sydney, 2004
2. Ashley Carruthers, Vietnamese Dictionary of Sydney, 2008 http://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/vietnamese.
3. Australia Government, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Country Profile – Vietnam, Canberra 2013
4. Australian Social Trends, 1994, Population Growth: Birthplaces of Australia’s settlers. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 2008-03-14.
5. Australian Social Trends, 2003, Population  characteristics: Ancestry of Australia’s population. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 2008-03-14.
6. Department of Immigration and Citizenship, http://www.immi.gov.au/media/publications/statistics/federation/body2.pdf.
7. Haslinda Abullah (2009), “Major Challenges to the Effective Management of Human Resource Training and Development Activities”, The Journal of International Social Research, Volume 2/8 Summer 2009.
8. Gibbs, Stephen (2 December 2003). “Crunch time for SBS over Vietnamese news bulletin”. Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2008-03-14.
9. International Organization of Migration (IOM), Rural Development and Migration, Hanoi 2014.
10. International Organization of Migration (IOM), IOM Viet Nam joins together with National Government to host workshop on grievance redress mechanism for migrant workers, Hanoi 17th December 2013.
11. International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database, Washington April 2013.
12. James Jupp (ed.), 2001 The Australian People: An Encyclopedia of the Nation, Its People and Their Origins Edited by, Cambridge University Press 2001
13. Nguyen Anh Tuan (ed), 2006, Chapter 7: Migration of Labor Forces in International Economic Relations (Textbook), National Political Publisher, Hanoi.
14. Tim Lambert, a Brief History of Vietnam, http://www.localhistories.org/viethist.html,
15. Philip L. Martin, 2003, Highly Skilled Labor Migration: Sharing the Benefits, Geneva: The International Institute for Labour Studies.
16. Philip Martin, 2004, Inter-economics: Policy Responses to Unauthorized or Irregular Workers, Geneva: ILO, January/February
17. Viviani, N. and Griffith University. Centre for the Study of Australian-Asian Relations.  1980  Australian government policy on the entry of Vietnamese refugees in 1975, Centre for the Study of Australian-Asian Relations Griffith University.
18. Viviani, N., Lawe-Davies, J. and Griffith University. Centre for the Study of Australian-Asian Relations.  1980  Australian government policy on the entry of Vietnamese refugees, 1976 to 1978, Centre for the Study of Australian-Asian Relations Griffith University.
19. Viet Ventures,  http://www.vietventures.com/vietnam/history_vietnam.asp     
20. The World Fact book, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html   
21. UNDP, UNDP Human Development Report 2013, the CIA World Fact book 2014.
22. Williams, J. R. and Morris, J.  1991,  Homecoming: images of Vietnam, Nambour, Qld: Homecoming Publications.

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UNHRC Resolution on Myanmar: Another Global Action against the Military Regime

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The United Nations has taken another landmark decision against the continuing atrocities of the Military regime in Myanmar. The global action through the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution on 12 July 2021 gave a powerful message to the regime for its gross violations of human rights specifically against the stateless Rohingyas. Bangladesh has played a crucial role behind the approval of the resolution. The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on the “Human Rights Situation of Rohingya Muslims and other Minorities in Myanmar” in its 47th session condemning human rights violations by Myanmar’s military against the Rohingya and other minorities, and called for a process of reconciliation. The resolution was approved without a vote in the Geneva-based council. China, one of the 47 council members, told it could not join the consensus but nonetheless did not insist on bringing the text to a vote.

The text of the resolution calls for a “constructive and peaceful dialogue and reconciliation, in accordance with the will and interests of the people of Myanmar, including Rohingya Muslims and other ethnic minorities.” It also voices “unequivocal support for the people of Myanmar and their democratic aspirations and for the democratic transition in Myanmar.” The resolution calls for the immediate cessation of fighting and hostilities, of the targeting of civilians and of all violations of humanitarian and rights laws. It voices “grave concern” at continuing reports of serious human rights violations and abuses, including of arbitrary arrests, deaths in detention, torture, forced labour and “the deliberate killing and maiming of children.”

It has also emphasized the need to bring those accused and responsible for all forms of torture, crimes against humanity and war crimes against Rohingyas, including sexual offenses, to justice under appropriate national, regional and international judicial mechanisms. In this spirit, the resolution acknowledges the ongoing criminal proceedings in the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice. The resolution also reiterates the authority of the UN Security Council to determine what to do in such a situation. It requested the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to submit a report to the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly on the progress made in implementing the recommendations of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar. It also called for a panel discussion in the Human Rights Council on “the root causes of human rights violations and abuses against Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar.”

The resolution appears to be comprehensive in its scope and mandate. It is the first of its kind adopted unanimously since the horrific attacks on the Rohingyas in August 2017. The Human Rights Council has been proactive in protesting against the Myanmar regime for its perpetration of ethnic cleansing and genocide. This UN body has, for the first time, termed the Myanmar regime’s brutality and atrocity against the Rohingyas as ‘the textbook case of ethnic cleansing’. The resolution is significant for several reasons. First, the resolution has been adopted unanimously although China, India and Russia are the members of the UNHRC. China as the staunch ally of the Myanmar regime did not hinder the passing of the resolution based on the rare consensus in the UN forum. Second, the resolution remains a unique case of strong message to the military regime of Myanmar. Unlike the UN Security Council, the Third Committee and the General Assembly, the UNHRC has been able to bring together all 47 member countries to create a consensus on the gross violations of human rights against the Rohingyas and other minorities in Myanmar.

It may be mentioned that the Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system, made up of 47 States, which are responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe.  The Council was created by the United Nations General Assembly on 15 March 2006 with the main purpose of addressing situations of human rights violations and making recommendations on them. The composition of the Human Rights Council shows participation of member countries from different regions in the world. Members are elected from Africa, Asia Pacific, West Europe, East Europe, Latin America, North America and other regions. Third, the resolution has strongly condemned and warned the military regime for its brutality, atrocity and illegal grabbing of power. No international body has so far applied such a powerful statement against the military regime in Myanmar. Fourth, it gives a hope to the Rohingyas and other ethnic minorities that the UN puts the issue on high level of agenda. It is also encouraging for the anti-Junta political activists that the global community keeps pressure on the Myanmar regime. Finally, the resolution has echoed Thomas Andrews, the UN’s special rapporteur on the rights situation in Myanmar, who told the Human Rights Council earlier that the military had carried out crimes against humanity since taking control, and slammed the international community for failing to “end this nightmare.” He decried the “widespread, systematic attacks against the people” since the coup five months ago. Referring to the view of the people of Myanmar, he asserted that the junta is an illegitimate regime and, indeed, a terrorist scourge set loose upon them.

Another remarkable factor is that the adoption of this resolution reflects a major success of Bangladesh’s Rohingya diplomacy. Bangladesh has sheltered more than 1.1 million Rohingyas in its own soil. The country has been diligently working for a permanent solution to the Rohingya crisis, beginning with their safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation in Myanmar. The resolution has rightly praised Bangladesh for providing shelter to the displaced Rohingyas while it called on the international community to continue providing humanitarian assistance until they return to Myanmar. It is emphasized that since the massive influx of Rohingyas from Myanmar into Bangladesh in August 2017, this is the first time that any resolution on the Rohingya was adopted in the UN without a vote, due to the intense diplomatic efforts made by the Bangladesh. The ministry of foreign affairs observes that the adoption of the resolution by consensus is a big milestone for Bangladesh. During the adoption, Bangladesh Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva argued that the issue of addressing the Rohingya crisis and the protection of the human rights of Rohingyas must remain high on the UN agenda. 

Bangladesh strongly pointed out that the current political turmoil in Myanmar should not detract the international community from paying due attention to this crisis and seeking a durable solution. Bangladesh urged the international community to play a visible and effective role in ensuring the return of the forcibly displaced Rohingyas with full security and dignity. Bangladesh continued pressure on different UN bodies and international community to provide a roadmap and clear direction to mitigate the sufferings of Rohingyas, particularly their repatriation in their home country. In the wake of adopting the resolution, the Bangladesh foreign minister AK Abdul Momen urged UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and international community to constructively engage with Myanmar for early commencement of Rohingya repatriation to their homeland in Rakhine. He made it clear that the Rohingyas are Myanmar nationals and they must return to Myanmar.

It is critical to reiterate that Tom Andrew, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, fiercely attacked the states who are supporting the Myanmar regime and called for the urgent formation of an “Emergency Coalition for the People of Myanmar” to stop what he described as the military junta’s “reign of terror” in the country. He stressed that it was time to the end “the failure of those outside of Myanmar to take measures that could help end this nightmare”. He raises a fundamental question: “Future generations may look back upon this moment and ask: ‘Did the people and nations of the world do all that they reasonably could to help the people of Myanmar in their hour of great peril and need?’ In his view the answer is negative. Besides, the UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet told the council that the situation in Myanmar had “evolved from a political crisis to a multi-dimensional human rights catastrophe”.

In conclusion, both Bangladesh and the UNHRC have again played a vital role in advancing the cause of the Rohingyas in times of intense geopolitical rivalry and COVID-19 pandemic by adopting the resolution with biting attacks on the Myanmar regime for its atrocities. It may be recalled that the similar resolution was adopted by the UNHRC on 3 July 2015 in the backdrop of the torture and the Rohingya influx to Bangladesh. In that resolution (A/HRC/29/L.30) on the human rights situation of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar, the Council condemned the systematic gross violations of human rights and abuses committed against all, including Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State. In six years, the UNHRC has passed another historic resolution against the Myanmar regime that creates an opportunity for the international community to continue diplomatic pressure on the Military regime and its allies.  

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Does Indonesian have to Pay Extra Taxes within Rampancy of Covid?

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Various countries in the world are slowly starting to remove the outdoor mask rule and  give  leeway  for  Covid-19  social  restrictions,  but  it  doesn’t  happen  in  Indonesia. Indonesia is running under peculiar circumstances until July 2021. The worst scenario that has always been feared finally happened along with a surge in Covid-19 patients as many as 40,000 people per day. This fact became even more terrible when the Indonesian Government presents Draft Law Number 6 of 1983 concerning General Provisions and Tax Procedures. The government plans to impose a value-added tax (VAT) on groceries as basic necessities, education, and health services. So, how does the Government create a scenario to call this a normal policy?

In this bill, the government is known to remove several types of services that are currently included in the non-taxable objects group. The services that are removed and will be subject to VAT include health services, education, and groceries as necessities. Groceries are classified as basic necessities that are needed by many people which constructed as non- taxable object group as regulated on Article 4A paragraph (2) of Law Number 42 of 2009 concerning the Third Amendment to Law Number 8 of 1983 concerning Value Added Tax of Goods and Services and Sales Tax on Luxury Goods. As well as groceries, medical health services and educational services are also classified as non-taxable objects based on Article 4A paragraph (3) of the same Law.

The Government’s plan to add tax objects has not been submitted yet to the House of Representatives, but whatever the taxation policy takes, it must still be guided by the principles of tax collection stated by Adam Smith, which are the principles of equality, certainty, the convenience of payment, and the principle of efficiency. The addition of tax objects is out of the line with the principle of the convenience of payment, which means that the tax must be collected at the right time for the taxpayer, for example when the taxpayer has just received his income. However, if we look at the current situation, the government is implementing a policy of Restricting Community Activities which is not the right time for taxpayers to receive information on additional tax objects. People tend to need financial assistance from the Government rather than pay extra tax.

The issue of maternity tax arises when the government removes health services from the   non-taxable   objects.   Based   on   the   Minister   of   Finance   Regulation   Number 82/PMK.03/2012, health services include general practitioners, specialists, and dentists, acupuncturists, nutritionists, dentists, physiotherapists, and veterinarians. Furthermore, midwifery services and  traditional birth services, paramedic and nurse services, hospital services, maternity homes, health clinics, health laboratories, to alternative medicine services are constructed as part of health services.

Until now, it is not explained in detail which health services will be taxed. However, if referring to that Minister of Finance Regulation, then midwifery services or childbirth costs will also be subject to a value-added tax (VAT). Here is where the dilemma comes in, childbirth is a basic right inherent in every human being which is stipulated in Article 16 paragraph (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and revealed through Article

28B paragraph (1) of the 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia which prescribe “Everyone has the right to build a family and continue their generation through a legal marriage”. As a constitutional right, the state should protect, respect, and fulfill these rights by not collecting taxes from a basic right.

In the same boat to groceries, this plan got criticism from society because it is not clear yet which types of groceries will be taxed. Based on the Minister of Finance Regulation Number 116/PMK.010/2017, the types of necessities that are VAT-free include rice and grain, corn, sago, soybeans, consumption salt, meat, eggs, milk, fruits, vegetables, sweet potatoes, spices, and sugar consumption. The collection of groceries taxes will be more effective if the groceries are classified as premium groceries and groceries that do not recognize social class (non-premium groceries). Examples of premium groceries constructed as wagyu beef, kobe beef, shirataki rice, and basmati rice which have relatively wide price ranges from local goods.

Education is also considered to be the object of VAT. This purpose is immensely counterproductive to the philosophy of education as a basic right as stated in Article 31 of the 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia. Tax collection from education opens up opportunities for commercialization in the education field. Commercialization is the process of changing and/or exploiting something for a profit. In line with the statement expressed by Milton Friedman and Frederik Van Hayek, that commercialization of education is a state of education  that  adheres  to  industrial  society  and  market  society.  Education  should  be inclusive for the whole community to increase the education participation rate.

One thing that must be understood is that tax collection must be in line with the capacity of taxpayer. There are two approaches to measuring the capacity of each person, which are (1) objective elements, by looking at the amount of income or wealth owned by a person, (2) subjective elements, by paying attention to the number of material needs that must be fulfilled by each person. Thus, the collection of maternity taxes, groceries, and education taxes must go through a comprehensive review to avert conflict with these elements. Is the government able to clearly classify which health services are taxed, as well as groceries and education? Take a cup of your coffee, and we will see…

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Stabilization And Digital Dialogues For Myanmar: Stepping Back From The Brink Of Civil War

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Abstract: Five months into the military coup of 1 February, Myanmar is on an increasingly fragile trajectory with clear signs of conflict escalation. World attention tapered off after the first few weeks and shifted to other hot spots, including in the Middle East. Regional ASEAN diplomacy and western sanctions pressure have failed to provide a breakthrough while influential neighboring countries are locked in competition and preoccupied with the COVID-19 Pandemic. The weakened multilateral system seems unable to respond decisively to growing mass protests and violent repression by the military. Basic levels of protection for civilians and essential services have been eroded amid a resurging COVID-19 Pandemic.

National cohesion in Myanmar has come under severe pressure. Although the country has weathered low-intensity conflicts over the years and state disintegration is a remote scenario, regional stability hinges on peace and prosperity in Myanmar which is located between Chinese and Indian spheres of influence. Democratic transition has remained incomplete in Myanmar since 2011. Inclusive civic dialogue can help reduce tensions through leveraging communications technology for digital grass-roots engagement, especially with Myanmar’s youth. This might restore a modicum of calm and provide a conducive environment for peace talks. International friends of Myanmar and ASEAN states are well placed to provide critical support, in line with ASEAN commitments. Civic digital dialogue could also boost human capital for addressing longer-term challenges, including the impact of climate change and the Pandemic.  

Evolving Conflict Dynamics- Violence Expands from the Center to the Periphery

While renowned National League for Democracy (NLD) party leader Aung San Suu Kyi remained under house arrest, charges of corruption were formalized in June concerning a charitable foundation, in addition to  alleged breaches of COVID-19 protocol and communications regulations. After some delay, a court hearing was held on 26 May. Meanwhile, the number of detained civilians grew over tenfold from the first weeks of mass protests to 6,000. On 30 June, the government released 2,300 detainees nationwide, including media and NGO workers who had not committed violent acts. The junta prepared indictments against protesters and 64 persons received death sentences as reported in media in early June.

Some 211,000 persons were internally displaced, according to recent UNHCR figures and the death toll neared 900 persons in late June, according to NGO observer groups. Since the beginning of 2021, the civilian casualty rate in Myanmar is among the highest worldwide, second only to conflicts in Ethiopia and Nigeria. Businesses were severely affected, and several factories were closed; several large international firms divested from Myanmar or are pausing investments. After a general strike in February, anti-junta protests continued in northern Kachin State, southern Dawei, Sagaing region and in the commercial capital Yangon.

A Committee representing the disbanded parliament (CRPH) was formed and a “National Unity Government” (NUG) established in April. The shadow government issued a proclamation for the release of all political prisoners, return of the armed forces to the barracks, ending the violence and accountability for those responsible for atrocities after the coup. The NUG also pledged remedial action for Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority and their rights in Rakhine state of Myanmar where over 100,000 persons had fled to safety in Bangladesh in the 2017 military crackdown against suspected terrorists.

By the end of June, military repression continued unabated. Weapons of war were used against demonstrators and neighborhood vigilante groups loyal to the authorities targeted protesters. Internet services were frequently blocked since April as the military  rolled out a restrictive new cyber security law. The Facebook social media platform which was used by half of the country’s population as ubiquitous news source and messaging service was shut down. independent media outlets were shut down or fined, and over 90 journalists imprisoned. Relatively few defections from the armed forces have occurred, mostly from lower ranking navy and air force members as well as units constituted with former rebels in 2015. Some reports suggest that soldiers melted away to join the Civil Disobedience Movement in an estimated 800 total of cases, but it remains unclear how many of them ended up taking arms for the resistance.

In another more serious development, some of the ethnic minority militias in Myanmar’s border areas with long-running insurgencies against the central government have started to mobilize. There  were reports that  urban dissenters were joining their ranks and new ‘civilian armies’ were constituted as offshoots of the Civil Defense Movement while other protesters just sought temporary shelter among militias. Several of these groups -including the Kachin in the north and the Karen in the east- publicly denounced the coup and stated they would defend protesters in the territory they control. Other ethnic militias appeared to be sitting on the fence about fighting in urban areas. Experts believe that the territorial ethnic armies have widely diverging military capabilities and are unlikely to mount a serious challenge to the armed forces. However, ethnic militia are a possible factor in pan-ethnic solidarity supporting talks and might become ‘king makers’ in the event of a rift inside the Myanmar military forces.

On 22 June, armed demonstrators of the ‘Mandalay PDF’ group engaged armed forces in a sustained urban firefight at Myanmar’s second largest city. In areas bordering Thailand, Karen state saw intensified armed clashes in May when over 100,000 persons were displaced and some sought temporary safety in Thailand. Confrontations were also reported from Chin state bordering India and from northern Kachin and Shan states. Well-informed observers warned about a trend towards generalized revolt. unless regional or international initiatives can manage to stem the escalation. The country may have come close to becoming ungovernable and some analysts warn of impending state collapse and prolonged civil war as in the case of Syria. 

International Response Patterns- Sanctions and Regional Diplomacy

The UN Security Council discussed the situation in Myanmar three times since the coup and issued                  a presidential statement on 10 March. The Council repeatedly called for restraint and restoring democratic transition in Myanmar but its closed meeting on 18 June 2021 fell short of deciding on an arms embargo. The Council demanded that the constitutional order should be respected but did not condemn the military coup outright, due to the position of China and Russia that defended national sovereignty. China publicly rejected sanctions as “inappropriate intervention” on 3 July during the                 9th World Peace Forum held in Beijing. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated that the primary goal was to help Myanmar find a political solution as soon as possible through dialogue and consultation.

The UN Generally Assembly (GA) passed a first non-binding resolution on Myanmar on 18 June, which condemned the coup and called for a stop in the flow of arms to the country and the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other senior civilian officials. The UN Secretary-General reiterated his call for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi on 1 July following mass releases of detainees in Myanmar. He also expressed deep concern over continued intimidation and violence as well as arbitrary arrests. In early July, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned of political crisis in Myanmar evolving into a “multi-dimensional human rights catastrophe” with potential for massive insecurity and fallout in the region. The SG’s Special Envoy on Myanmar, Swiss diplomat Christine Schraner Burgener, visited neighboring states of Myanmar but was not permitted to enter the country.

Outside the UN, international responses featured moral appeals, public condemnation and the use of targeted sanctions. The G7 Foreign and Development Ministers Statement of 5 May roundly condemned the coup and called for immediate cessation of violence; the G7 pledged support to ASEAN efforts in conflict resolution. In mid-May, US, UK and Canada imposed a new round of coordinated sanctions which were expanded from a dozen military figures to state enterprises known as significant income earners (gems and timber industries). In early July, the US led additional sanctions measures against 22 members of the regime and close relatives, also targeting three Chinese companies for providing support to the Myanmar regime through business dealings with the sanctioned Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited.

EU sanctions were expanded to include public timber companies from Myanmar, aligning with earlier UK measures. The US and UK placed sanctions on the State Administration Council (SAC), the junta’s governing body while the EU placed sanctions on the Myanmar War Veterans Organization, due to its close connection with the Armed Forces. Japan warned in mid-May that assistance to Myanmar could be frozen beyond a halt of new aid programs decided in February, seeking to use its considerable leverage as a top donor for Myanmar. Canada said it imposed additional sanctions on individuals and entities tied to the Myanmar armed forces, indicating it was prepared to take further steps. New Zealand imposed a travel ban on the Myanmar junta and stopped all aid that could benefit them; effectively suspending all military and high-level political contacts with the country.

Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar’s armed forces Senior General Min Aung Hlaing remained the                        de-facto leader of the country. Apart from minor changes in the SAC, the junta government stayed in place. Experts assess that the army leader has no intention to curb Myanmar’s economic progress. Unlike during previous military rule in Myanmar in the 1980s, a semi-civilian composition of the new cabinet in the Supreme Administrative Council (SAC) shows that the military is prepared to ride out international pressure and pursue national development. However, analysts based in the region see          a risk of Myanmar backsliding several decades and reversing gains from the democratic transition.

ASEAN Regional Leverage vs. Geopolitical Interests

Early regional reactions to the coup in  Myanmar were muted, with the notable exception of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Following the ASEAN consensus principle, current ASEAN Chair Brunei appealed for respect of ASEAN’s principles of rule of law, democracy and human rights. The regional block tried to engage the junta during the 24 April ASEAN Leaders Meeting which the Burmese coup leader, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing attended. Yet he subsequently backtracked stating that stability was an essential precondition for ASEAN peace talks and implementing the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus from the summit. ASEAN  followed up with a high-level mission to Yangon in early June to meet the junta leader again and seek his views on a list of nominees for an ASEAN special envoy for Myanmar agreed among ASEAN member states.   

The junta’s  foreign minister participated  in a special ASEAN-China Foreign Minister’s meeting in Chongqing in early June, amid speculations that China was warming up to the military leadership in Myanmar. Chinese officials had issued veiled criticism in the early phase of the coup while parallel Chinese linkages were forged with the civilian NUG. A tuning point occurred in mid-March when protesters injured Chinese workers at a Yangon factory complex which was damaged and looted. In a scenario of widespread instability and key infrastructure under threat, China might resort to pressure  NUG and the junta into a compromise, according to regional experts; some analysts point to a recent Chinese troop concentration at the important border town of Jiegao.

China’s southern Yunnan province borders Myanmar where Chin state became one of the recent flashpoints in violence. The area is important for China’s transcontinental Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), through a China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC). The plan features a high-speed train link from China to the Indian Ocean, alongside gas pipeline projects to Myanmar coastal areas, as well as the  Muse-Mandalay highway.  China has also pursued a mega-hydro project north of Myitkyina which was stalled in 2011 over environmental concerns and developed an industrial park for the town. In addition, Chinese investors have snapped estate and land in the Yangon area, despite restrictive rules.

China’s President Xi Yiping undertook a milestone visit to Myanmar in January 2020, where he signed 33 agreements. Myanmar’s strategic value in these schemes was recently underscored by the visit of China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi in mid-January 2021 as senior-most foreign official to arrive since November’s election. In military cooperation, China as a traditional ally has taken a relatively low-key approach with Myanmar. Russia appeared more eager to capitalize on arms cooperation with senior visits demonstrating that Moscow is not beholden to western sanctions policies.

Like the many economic and investment ties between Thailand and Myanmar, other regional partners have most likely  adopted a “wait and see” approach before gradually re-engaging with the junta-led government. However, Thailand voiced concerns of spillover from the violence in Myanmar, after refugees had crossed the long border; Thailand considers itself as a ‘front line state’ and has recalled its “quiet and discreet diplomacy” efforts underway.

India as Myanmar’s northwestern neighbor already hosts many refugees from the Christian Chin minority.  15,000 refugees have arrived in northeastern Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur since the coup, according to UNHCR figures. These arrivals remain displaced and are hosted by local communities. Larger waves of refugees from Myanmar would affect the delicate local political and security environment. Myanmar’s military has at times coordinated with Indian security forces to control extremists and “geopolitical intricacy” overrides India’s stand on the current crisis.

Similarly, China does not want to see spillover from Myanmar tensions upset its southern industrialization schemes. It was India that delivered the first 1.5mln doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Myanmar in mid-January when China’s global vaccine diplomacy took shape. Yet both powerful neighbors of Myanmar are unlikely to come to an understanding how to prevent a worst-case scenario, given their geopolitical antagonisms in the wake of recent US and Quad countries cooperation.

Configuring Innovative Dialogue for 21st Century- Digital Engagement with Myanmar Conflict Parties

In view of the high stakes from ongoing violence and the risk of serious escalation, the time may have come for an alternative approach in Myanmar peace support. Assisted by new technology, digital dialogue at the grass-roots level could provide an opportunity for reflection and connect segments of the population and conflict parties. Such innovative dialogue can also tap into Myanmar’s human capital, especially youth who tend to be tech-savvy and eager to express their views. ASEAN’s supportive and caring posture expressed in its 24 April Leader’s Meeting Communique lays out  ASAEAN regional solidarity in a people-centered approach rather than prescriptive intervention. ASEAN is also well placed for assisting with required technology from its industrialized members and influential countries in Asia.

Newly boosted by the global switch to digital in the COVID-19 Pandemic, state-of -the-art communication technology and tools exist to connect hundreds of participants in online dialogue sessions. UN peace missions in Yemen, Syria and Libya have utilized such digital outreach to enrich ongoing negotiations and tapped into AI solutions for evaluating feedback. The work of senior negotiators might become more hybrid with online inputs and analysis, although scholars note                                a “missing sense of peace” in virtual interactions. On the other hand, benefits exist from greater inclusion, shorter iterative meetings, and equality in interaction. Significant peace constituencies including women, youth and minorities can be included online from the very start than in most traditional mediations.  

Myanmar has fertile ground for digital grass-roots dialogue. Younger citizens, including in conflict areas have shown great skill in networked cooperation, providing practical livelihoods advice and psychosocial support for years. In view of restrictions from the junta, protesters have resorted to virtual private network (VPN) solutions to ensure connectivity. Some younger officials and members of the security apparatus may also participate in a “sovereignty enhancing” dialogue aimed at better governance and reforms. The technological challenges including interference from authorities are not insurmountable.

Accompaniment could be provided via inter-regional cooperation between ASEAN and the EU, which remains under-utilized, despite strong shared business interests. The multi-sector dialogue  template (“Enhanced Regional EU-ASEAN Dialogue Instrument” -E-READI) has ample room for configuring the required scaling effects in technical assistance in sectoral policy dialogues concerning Myanmar’s specific situation. Notably, Facebook and Instagram banned Myanmar’s military and military-controlled state media in late February, citing “exceptionally severe human rights abuses and the clear risk of future military-initiated violence in Myanmar”.    

Pivot to a New Generation Compact in Myanmar- Tackling Global Challenges

Innovative digital dialogue as an early confidence building process can provide a platform for addressing center-periphery relations in Myanmar which lie at the core of many minority grievances. Myanmar could start developing its “new generational compact” including on regional autonomy and decentralization. The country never managed to forge a “Second Panglong Agreement” after independence and the death of General Aung San in 1948.    

Social cohesion and enabling social capital for addressing global challenges of climate change and Pandemic resilience are urgent for Myanmar. The devastating Cyclone Nargis in 2008 showed the country’s vulnerability to extreme weather events in low-lying coastal areas. Myanmar’s Pandemic response also requires joint mobilization, due to  rising infection levels nearing peaks of last October. Medical staff were instrumental in launching the Civil Disobedience Movement; work stoppages and insecurity have affected the health sector where recent new COVID-19 restrictions are hampering humanitarian access and response. The impact has been dramatic in interrupting remote outreach on public health prevention and counseling of victims of gender-based violence.

In the absence of consensus among superpowers to find a joint formula for lending ASEAN political efforts additional clout, or tactical convergence between the US and China for stabilizing Myanmar jointly as a middle ground, innovative civic dialogue should be seriously considered. More punitive approaches may end up driving the beleaguered country deeper into the arms of China and exacerbate violent conflict. Grass-roots engagement with critical peace constituencies in Myanmar could prevent transforming the current crisis into a proxy fight between global players and second tier regional powers, including India which has asserted itself in border tensions with China and as part of the US-led Quad group of states to hedge against China’s growing influence in ASEAN and APEC Regions.  

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