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Auckland concert for Burmese refugees

3 October 2005

Auckland concert for Burmese refugees

About 65 singers, dancers and musicians will take to the stage at the PumpHouse beside Takapuna’s Lake Pupuke this month to raise funds for refugees from Burma.

Led off by a full half-hour of the prize-winning, 21-member Northcote College Jazz Band, the concert at 7.30pm on Saturday 29 October will be a fascinating mix of European, American, Asian and African cultures.

From Burma come 25 dancers and musicians including the heart-in-mouth Bamboo Dancers, dancing dangerously between bamboo poles as they are rhythmically banged together.

Louise Malloy will sing songs from the shows and Denys Trussell, renowned poet and concert pianist, will play Listz. Brass quintet ‘Wonderbrass’, South African singing group ‘Africapella’ and a group of spectacular Burundian drummers will round out a night of variety, fun and sheer entertainment.

Proceeds from the event will help dedicated Kiwi volunteers to provide English classes and other support for the 120,000 refugees who have fled from Burma to nine crowded camps along the Thai/Burmese border. Many of the refugees will be resettled in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as well as in European nations, and will need English in their new countries.

The concert comes amidst growing international pressure on the military regime which has ruled Burma since 1962. Former Czech president Vaclav Havel and South African Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu issued a report on 20 September urging intervention by the United Nations Security Council, arguing that systematic human rights abuses in Burma are far worse than in other countries where the UN has intervened, such as Afghanistan, Haiti and Sierra Leone.

In July, the military regime bowed to pressure and agreed to give up its right to take up the chair of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean), by rotation, next year.

But Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy overwhelmingly won the last free elections in 1990, remains under house arrest in Rangoon. Most other MPs elected in 1990 are in jail or in exile.

The Friends of Refugees Trust was set up in 2001 by a group of volunteers for the Refugee and Migrant Service working with some of the 300 Burmese refugees who are now living in New Zealand.

The trust has supported English classes and other services for refugees at the Rawene Centre in Rawene Rd, Birkenhead.

It has helped refugees from Burma’s Karen ethnic group to establish a community garden behind Beach Haven School, and assists individuals with education, job-hunting, cultural and community events and a wide range of interactions with New Zealand society. This year it has also supported a volunteer from the North Shore, Alex Abela, to teach English in a refugee camp on the Thai/Burmese border. Several other volunteers will join him in the border camps shortly.

The trust’s founding chairperson, Hugh Fraser, died on 9 May 2005 after a long illness. He kept actively working with the Karen refugees right up to the day before he died, and had been working on the plans for this concert for several months. As well as raising money for the refugees from Burma, the concert now becomes a memorial to Hugh.

Tickets for the concert are $20 for adults or $15 for children and students. Details and online booking are available at: http://www.pumphouse.co.nz/post_ph1.php?id=624


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