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Australia suspends defence ties with Myanmar

The federal government has temporarily halted defence collaboration initiatives with Myanmar following its military coup in February.

The federal government has temporarily halted defence collaboration initiatives with Myanmar following its military coup in February.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne has announced that the Commonwealth’s Defence Cooperation Program with Myanmar — limited to non-combat programs, which include English language training — has been suspended.

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Australia's development program has also been re-directed to the “immediate humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable and poor”, including the Rohingyas and other ethnic minorities.

“We will prioritise the most pressing humanitarian and emerging needs and seek to ensure our humanitarian engagement is with and through non-government organisations, not with government or government-related entities, as is currently the case in some parts of the program,” Minister Payne said.

The minister also noted Australia's autonomous sanctions regime, which already includes an arms embargo prohibiting the supply of weapons to Myanmar, as well as targeted sanctions on individuals.

“We continue to review our sanctions regime,” she added.

This in response to the Myanmar military’s ongoing detention of Australian professor Sean Turnell, and democratically-elected State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and other public officials held captive since the military coup on 1 February.

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Minister Payne called for their immediate release and noted concern over the escalation in violence and the rising death toll.  

“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,” she said.

“We continue to strongly urge the Myanmar security forces to exercise restraint and refrain from violence against civilians.”

Minister Payne added: “We call on the Myanmar regime to engage in dialogue. Australia will continue to play a constructive role, including in consultation with international partners, particularly ASEAN, in support of the Myanmar people.”

The military coup was sparked by a dispute over the outcome of Myanmar’s election in November, which senior military officials alleged was fraudulent.

Myanmar’s chief of the armed forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, has assumed control of the government under a one-year-long state of emergency.

[Related: Government invests in ASEAN-centred regional order]

Australia suspends defence ties with Myanmar
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