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Maritime Union of Australia


Media Release (7/9/00)


MUA calls for release of Burmese leaders


Protest in Canberra, Friday 8th

National Secretary John Coombs has condemned the recent house arrest of Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and parliamentarians in Rangoon.


The Nobel Laureate and leader of National League for Democracy is being held armed guard in her home. NLD won an 82 per cent majority in the 1990 elections, but the military refused her party to take government.


"The military junta in Rangoon makes the likes of Fijian coup leader George Speight appear a relatively nice guy, " said MUA national Secretary JohnCoombs. " We join the Burmese community in expressing outrage over the recent crackdown. too frightened to call for help.

The Australian government can not stand back and let this abuse of human rights continue."


Meanwhile, the International Transport workers Federation and the MUA port officials in Darwin successfully rescued 4 Burmese crew stranded on board two cattle boats, last week. The crew had not been paid for four months and were made to work on shore while the boats lay in the mud at a private berth in Darwin. The seafarers were threatened with being taken to the local police station

if they complain about conditions.


" Accommodation on board was appalling," said ITF Australia co-coordinator Trevor Charles." Seafarers were packed into stuffy cabins in the stifling tropical heat with no air-conditioning. They were fed a meager ration of chicken wings and rice, which they had to share between themselves and seven Indonesian seafarers. They were forced to work on local building sites."


A local member of Burmese community contacted the ITF Australia co-coordinator, which then launch a rescue mission.The Burmese have now received $20,000 in back pay and compensation. " The crew know how the Burmese junta treat seafarers seeking outside help, said Mr. Coombs. " They fear returning to their homeland. It is not just democracy leaders that are imprisoned and tortured in Burma, but workers and unionists. The Australian Government is just not doing enough. But the union movement is closely monitoring the situation."


Contacts: John Coombs, MUA National Secretary and ITF executive board member, mobile 0419240264


Free Burma Action Committee, General Secretary Ausralialia, and Maung Maung Than, mobile 0411337816


Trevor Charlse, ITF Australia Co-coordinator, mobile 0419413464