National

Rights groups urge end to Myanmar ties

By AAP Newswire

Australia's leading human rights groups are urging the federal government to sever military ties with Myanmar and impose targeted sanctions on commanders responsible for atrocities against Rohingya.

The United Nations has recommended Myanmar's top military generals be investigated for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

A coalition of human rights groups are jointly calling on Australia to step up and press for accountability of those responsible.

"Those with blood on their hands, for the explosion of violence perpetrated by Myanmar's security forces against Rohingya villagers across northern Rakhine State, must be held to account," Amnesty's Diana Sayed said.

"The Australian government must explore all avenues to achieve this, in particular an immediate mechanism for evidence collection and preservation for future criminal prosecutions at the International Criminal Court."

UN officials last month released a report detailing instances of murder, rape, torture and systemic oppression and discrimination.

At the time, Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said Australian was deeply disturbed by the findings and demanded the perpetrators of war crimes and genocide be held to account.

"Perpetrators must be held to account. We will continue to work internationally to this end, including through our position on the Human Rights Council and at the UN General Assembly," she said.

The United States, UK and European Union have all taken steps to suspend military cooperation with the Myanmar military.

Australia maintains an arms embargo, but rights groups are concerned the government continues to offer the Myanmar military support through humanitarian assistance, peacekeeping and English-language training.

There are more than 900,000 displaced Rohingya in Bangladesh and another 530,000 in Rakhine State.

Australia has provided $70 million in humanitarian assistance to deliver emergency supplies to Rakhine State and food, water, shelter and healthcare to Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh.

The time has come for Defence Minister Christopher Pyne to end Australia's defence cooperation with Myanmar's military," Mark Purcell from the Australian Council for International Development said.

"Australia has a responsibility to send a strong signal that it has a zero-tolerance approach for gross human rights violations in our region, including the abhorrent use of sexual violence as a weapon of war."