Australian govt suspends military cooperation with Myanmar
In a significant development, Australia has suspended its military ties and cooperation with Myanmar in the aftermath of February’s military coup. Australia on Sunday also redirected its humanitarian aid from Myanmar government and related entities to non-government organisations.
Speaking to reporters, Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said that the Australian government does not accept the detention of economic policy adviser Sean Turnell, adding that he has been provided with “very limited consular support”. Calling for Professor Turnell’s release, the foreign minister said that the government is seeking cessation of armed violence against civilian population and return to democracy in Myanmar.
“We condemn the use of lethal force or violence against civilians exercising their universal rights, including the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” Payne said while speaking to media on Sunday night. She further expressed concerns over the detention of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other government officials, demanding their immediate release.
In addition, Australia has suspended its defence training program worth 1.5 million Australian dollars in Myanmar, redirecting the funds to humanitarian aid for the most vulnerable ethnic groups, including Rohingya minorities.
In recent days, Myanmar’s military junta has escalated violent crackdown on protesting citizens. Last week, security forces used live ammunition, tear gas and rubber bullets to scramble anti-coup protesters in major cities, like the commercial capital of Yangon. As per United Nations, more than 50 people have been killed in one of the bloodiest crackdown on peaceful demonstrations in the south-east Asian nation since the military takeover.
Amid the ongoing nationwide Civil Disobedience Movement, major trade unions have called for a shutdown of the economy as part of the protest against the nation’s military rulers.
While Western countries have been vocally condemning the coup, some Asian nations have maintained their silence over the ongoing crises in Myanmar. Countries like New Zealand and the United States have imposed a wide range of sanctions on Myanmar in response to military violence against unarmed protesters and forced detention of officials of the elected government.
In a statement on Thursday, the US Department of Commerce said that it has blacklisted Myanmar’s Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Defense, and two top military entities – Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Company (MEC) for trade operations.