Demonstrators call for NZ Govt to help Burmese

Demonstrators have called on the New Zealand Government to take a stand against human rights abuses in Burma's Kachin province.

Violence erupted in the province last month after a 17-year ceasefire between the Kachin people and the Burmese Government was broken.

The Kachin Burmese group said thousands had fled to makeshift camps near the Chinese border, and civilians were living in fear of abuse and torture.

Eighteen Kachin women were gang-raped by the military last month, including four who were left dead, although the group said the actual number of rapes was likely to be much higher.

About 100 people turned out for a demonstration at Parliament today, travelling from around the country to ask New Zealand to put pressure on Burma to establish a federal democracy.

The group stood on Parliament's forecourt singing the Kachin state anthem, holding placards bearing messages such as "Freedom and safety for Burma", "Stop ethnic cleansing" and "Show mercy to Kachin refugees".

One of the demonstrators, Dong Hkong, who arrived in New Zealand as a refugee in 2007, said the people at today's demonstration held great fears for family and friends back in the Kachin.

"According to the data collection, the violence is increasing more and more," he said.

"Many people die like animals so we want the New Zealand Government to put pressure on the military government."

Green MP Keith Locke and Labour MP Maryan Street, both members of the Burma cross-party parliamentary group, told the demonstrators they would take their message back to her Parliament colleagues.

Ms Street, the group's chairwoman, said the atrocities being committed in Burma were intolerable, and New Zealand would take up the struggle of those fighting for democracy.

"You will always have advocates in us for the issues that you raise," she said.

Mr Locke said the reality of the situation in Burma was not easily accessed.

"It's hidden from the TV cameras and I think it is important you as a community, many who came here as refugees from the oppression of the Burmese regime, to show New Zealanders what is really going on," he told the group.




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