Australian actor Cate Blanchett says it is “bewildering” Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi has not spoken out about the atrocities being committed against Rohingya Muslims in her country.
- Blanchett visited Rohingya refugees last week as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador
- She said they there are in dire need of aid ahead of the monsoon season
- The actor said Australia should reconsider the millions in aid it gives to Myanmar
The two-time Oscar winner made the comment in an interview with ABC’s The World, her only Australian television appearance following a visit to Bangladesh last week in her capacity as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.
More than 671,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar have sought safety in Bangladesh since August 2017, after a military campaign against the minority group that a UN official has previously called genocide.
“It is bewildering isn’t it that someone [Aung San Suu Kyi] who has been such a fighter for even a fragile democracy and who has been hailed as someone who upholds human rights, does not seem to be speaking out more clearly about the atrocities that are so very clearly happening under her watch,” Blanchett said.
Blanchett visited the region to raise awareness of the imminent threat the struggling Rohingya refugee population is facing ahead of the upcoming monsoon season.
The actor warned it could put 100,000 refugees living in the settlements at risk, and that they are in dire need of additional aid.
“The most pressing issue for me, [is] the need to support the refugees in the very immediate present as the monsoon comes,” she said.
“It’s a domino effect, one rain and those houses are going to collapse, so organisations like UNHCR really do need the financial support.”
The Rohingya are not recognised as citizens by Myanmar and have lived under an apartheid system in the western Rakhine state for decades.
Australia’s aid to Myanmar questioned
Blanchett also suggested the Australian Government rethink the millions of dollars of aid it currently provides to Myanmar.
“There are other countries, Canada, the EU and the US that have stopped such aid,” Blanchett said.
“From my point of view it wouldn’t be seen to be prudent to support the Myanmar military when such atrocities are being committed.”
Those fleeing Myanmar have told of horrific violence, including brutal murder and rape.
Blanchett recounted a conversation she had with a refugee, 18, who fled Rahkine after her entire village was torched.
“Her three-year-old brother was thrown in to that fire and her older brother was dismembered and shot in front of her and she had to keep running,” she said.
“They call it torture but when they call it torture they mean rape and they ran, they fled towards the border of Bangladesh.”
The actor said Bangladesh had been generous in keeping their borders open and called on the international community to do more.
The actor’s visit to Bangladesh was to raise awareness ahead of the monsoon season. (UNHCR: Hector Perez)
‘A lot of crossover’ with #MeToo
Blanchett said she also stood in solidarity with minority communities in her own industry and “absolutely” supports inclusion riders.
“Artists, creative people deal in grey areas and in nuance and express doubt, and I wholeheartedly stand with the men and women in my industry who are working extremely hard to stamp out systemic layers of abuse that have long existed in our industry,” she said.
“You don’t want a homogenous, purely white male, perspective on any creative enterprise, you want diversity.”
“Diversity of voices leads to a much more creative industry.”
Blanchett visited the refugees in Bangladesh as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. (UNHCR: Hector Perez)
She said she felt positive the momentum of the “volcanic” #MeToo campaign would continue.
“I feel women are standing united and certainly having just come back from Bangladesh, it is the women and children who are always the most vulnerable, so there is a lot of crossover there,” she said.
Last week, a new inter-agency donor appeal for Bangladesh announced funding requirements of US$951 million through to December 2018 to assist refugees and host communities affected by the refugee influx.
UNHCR is seeking US$196.3 million to continue its work providing lifesaving assistance and protection for the Rohingya refugees supporting host communities.
Watch the full exclusive interview with The World on the ABC News Channel at 10:00pm (AEDT) tonight.
If you would like donate to the UNHCR appeal: www.unrefugees.org.au/rohingya