Burmese students protesting in New Zealand threatened with “punishment” by embassy
The Myanmar embassy has threatened Myanmar students in New Zealand with “punishment” if they do not declare their loyalty to the country’s new military rulers.
A small group of Myanmar citizens in New Zealand received a letter from the embassy in Canberra, which is responsible for New Zealand, demanding that they confirm that they did not participate in the civil disobedience movement against the military junta which took control of the country in a February coup.
A student in New Zealand, who spoke to Thing on condition of anonymity, said the threat made her fearful for herself and her family in Myanmar as she publicly protested the military junta in New Zealand.
“I have a feeling that when I go back to Myanmar, as soon as I land at the airport, they will arrest me,” the student said.
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“They say if we lie they will punish [us], “she said.” So we have no choice because we have already done everything they mentioned. “
The two-page letter, which Thing saw, requires students to confirm by July 7 that they were not involved in the protest movement or that they had no contact with anyone who participated in the movement. He says they are prohibited from posting on social media about the military coup.
It was sent to scholarship students in New Zealand who were employed by the former civilian government of their home country.
The student who spoke to Thing said she knew about a dozen other Burmese students who had received the embassy’s request and participated in protests or posted about the coup on social media.
She still didn’t know how she would react to the letter and she had now applied for asylum in New Zealand. “I don’t know what’s going to happen in my future, there is a lot of insecurity and uncertainty.”
Tin Ma Ma Oo, chairwoman of the New Zealand-based advocacy group Democracy For Myanmar, said the “illegal government” should not use its embassy to intimidate its citizens in New Zealand.
“We are obviously very concerned for the safety of the students,” she said. “We are concerned that they will come and take them all home, or if they do not, they could create a lot of threats and pose a danger to the family members of these students.”
Tin Ma Ma Oo said the government should grant asylum to all Myanmar citizens in New Zealand on temporary visas.
Green Party spokesperson for foreign affairs Golriz Ghahraman agreed the government should assure these citizens that they would not be forced to return when temporary visas end.
“We are seeing an escalation of repression, very violent repression in Myanmar, where they are now trying to quell dissent even in free countries like New Zealand.
“It’s a really heartbreaking moment for this community to realize that they might not be able to come back, but also a really scary moment to wonder if the New Zealand government, at some point, will force them to respect the conditions of their temporary visas. “
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been informed of the request made by the Myanmar Embassy. A spokesperson declined a request for an interview.
“We are deeply concerned about this development and will convey our concerns to the embassy,” the spokesperson said in a written statement.
“Freedom of expression, as well as the right to participate in democratic processes, is a fundamental right. New Zealand is committed to supporting the people of Myanmar. “
Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said she had not been informed about this, but hoped that “foreign nationals would not be put under pressure by political events in their own country”.
Myanmar’s embassy in Canberra did not respond to a request for comment.