By Helen Tong (student ambassador)
A workshop aimed at supporting advocacy and human rights in Myanmar was hosted by The Australian National University (ANU) Law Reform and Social Justice (LRSJ) program from 18-19 June 2022.
The workshop was run by the Diplomacy Training Program (DTP), an independent NGO committed to advancing human rights and empowering civil society in the Asia Pacific region.
The workshop was delivered as a part of the DTP’s Myanmar Diaspora Human Rights Advocacy Program.
Executive Director of the DTP Patrick Earle explained that the program “aims to build the knowledge, the skills and the networks of people from the Myanmar diaspora communities in Australia and New Zealand who work in support of human rights and democracy in Myanmar”.
The human rights abuses since the coup in Myanmar last year have led to a humanitarian crisis and the denial of people’s right to self-determination.
Patrick said this means “it can be very difficult and dangerous for people inside Myanmar to stand up, but it is possible for people outside of Myanmar to stand up”.
“We have a shared obligation to human rights and to working together for the human rights of everyone,” he said.
The workshop was the DTP’s first face-to-face program in two years.
“Work like this is especially important after COVID-19,” Patrick said.
“We ran an online program for many of the people here, but it’s different to be able to come together, to form those bonds of friendship, to get to know each other – those are the things that sustain people as well.
“It’s so much richer and stronger when people are together and making those bonds.”
Patrick said the collaboration with LRSJ came about through his personal connection with LRSJ Director Associate Professor Matthew Zagor.
“We have an old connection through human rights work,” Patrick said.
“We [DTP] were bringing people together in Canberra and we were looking for help around this Myanmar Diaspora Human Rights Advocacy Program.
“Matthew said it would be a very good matchup and link up with the purposes of LRSJ.”
Students of the ANU College of Law were also in attendance at the workshop.
Fifth-year Bachelor of Arts/Law (Hon) student Minna Liu said she was motivated to attend because she “wanted to get more informed knowledge about the situation in Myanmar from the local people and the diaspora in Australia”.
Minna said her personal highlight of the workshop was learning ways in which students can help.
This includes “learning more about how students at ANU can mobilise and organise for human rights protection in Myanmar, or how we can, for example, fundraise for the organisations we heard about”.
“Because sometimes when we think about the big regimes it can feel paralysing as to what a student can do, but when we all come together we have so much more power,” Minna said.