Australians are unaware their taxes support Myanmar’s crimes against humanity: poll

Only a minority of Australians are aware of the biggest human rights catastrophe in our region – the Myanmar military’s ethnic cleansing of the country’s Rohingya population – and even fewer know that Australia is helping to prop up the murderous regime perpetrating it, a new poll carried out on behalf of Amnesty International has found.

The poll results coincide with Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne’s meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week, at which they were expected to discuss his pending release of the final conclusions of the damning US inquiry into the crisis.

The poll found that, of the Australians who do know about this crisis on our doorstep, more than half of them (54%) disapprove of the Australian Government’s ongoing support and training of the Myanmar military.

However, more than half of Australians (53%) are unaware of the Myanmar military’s campaign of crimes against humanity. This includes about 6 in 10 women (59%, compared to 46% of men), despite the gendered nature of the military’s horrific tactic of widespread rape of women and girls, as well as its brutal, systematic murder of babies, children and adults.

“This poll shows that the majority of Australians do not know their taxpayer dollars are supporting a regime perpetrating a deliberate, brutal campaign against hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children,” said Amnesty International Australia’s Crisis Campaigner Diana Sayed.

“The results also show that once Australians do know about this crisis, they are inclined to disapprove of the Australian Government’s continued provision of support and training to the Myanmar military.

“Amnesty International’s message on this is very clear – governments who continue to train Myanmar’s military are propping up a force that has been carrying out a vicious campaign of violence against the Rohingya that amounts to crimes against humanity.

“There is no evidence that backdoor diplomacy works with that regime. Australia is out of step with its allies – including the UK, the US and the EU – as the only Western democracy providing training and support to the Myanmar military. This is inexcusable and it has to stop.”


Amnesty International has has gathered extensive, credible evidence implicating Myanmar’s military Commander-in-Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and 12 other named individuals in crimes against humanity committed during the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population in northern Rakhine State. It has documented in detail how the Myanmar military’s vicious campaign came in the context of long-standing institutionalised discrimination and segregation amounting to apartheid and was marked by crimes under international law including murder, rape, torture, targeted large-scale burning of villages, the use of landmines, forced starvation, mass deportation and other serious human rights violations.

Essential Research carried out a statistically valid poll of Australian adults between 19-23 September 2018, claiming poll-result accuracy within +/- 3 percentage points. The regular survey to which these questions (see below) were added is available here, with its methodology detailed on page 13.

The questions polled on behalf of Amnesty International were:

  1. “Are you aware the Myanmar military has conducted a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people over the past year, causing more than 700,000 to flee to refugee camps in Bangladesh?” and,
  2. “The Australian Government is the only Western democracy to be providing training and support to the Myanmar military while it is carrying out this campaign against the Rohingya. Do you approve or disapprove of this?”

More than 15,000 Australians have signed the Amnesty International petition calling on Australia to cease its support of the Myanmar military.