Wagga’s Burmese community are planning a peaceful protest to bring attention to the devastating conflict raging in their homeland.
More than 1000 people have fled Northern Myanmar, where the Burmese military are conducting airstrikes on Kachin rebels, and have sought refuge with the Catholic and Baptist churches in the state’s capital.
The conflict has also trapped more than 2000 civilians leaving them without food, water and access to medication.
In an effort to put international pressure on the military to stop the violence, Wagga’s own Burmese residents will be staging a prayer session to add their voice.
Jason Nang Hee fled Kachin and now lives in Wagga with his wife, but wants to do what he can to help those stuck in the conflict.
“I didn’t want to leave my country,” he said.
“I didn’t want to leave my family, my friends, my relatives.
“We want to make some noise, like it was done for the people of Rohingya.”
Lucy Zatang’s husband, Joseph, fled a village in Myanmar leaving Mrs Zatang and their child behind.
“The next year, he spent on a fish boat as an almost prisoner slaving away until he had the opportunity to escape,” she said.
“In 2005 after he managed to escape to Malaysia he contacted me and I took my daughter and met him there.
“In 2011 we finally arrived in Australia.”
Both Mr Nang Hee and Mrs Zatang are grateful for their lives in Australia and wish for Myanmar to experience the same peace.
On the May 19 they will be hosting a prayer session, at the tree chapel at the Botanic Gardens. They are urging the community of Wagga to join them in a show of support for the innocent civilians.
Some members of the community will also be traveling to Canberra this Friday to stage a prayer protest outside parliament, with Australian Burmese members from all over Australia.
In a statement released in late April, the United Nations resident and humanitarian coordinator in Myanmar, Knut Ostby said he was concerned by these reports.
“I have been particularly alarmed of reports of civilian casualties and the plight of communities affected by the fighting in Tanai and Hpakant townships, while other areas have been gravely affected as well,” he said.
“This includes possibly up to 2000 people who reportedly have been displaced from Awng Lawt, Sut Ring Yang and Sut Ra villages in Tanai Township.
“They are said to be sheltering in a remote forest area and unable to leave.”
The community in Wagga are also raising funds to send to the Baptist and Catholic churches in Kachin. If you would like to donate, please contact the manager of the Wagga Multicultural Council, Belinda Crain on 02 6921 6666.