Myanmar coup sees Australia halt Defence Cooperation Program

By Shannon Jenkins

Monday March 8, 2021

Foreign Minister Marine Payne Myanmar
Foreign Minister Marine Payne (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

The federal government has suspended its bilateral Defence Cooperation Program with Myanmar’s military in response to the killing of protesters in the country.

In a statement on Sunday, foreign affairs minister Marise Payne announced Australia’s development program was also being redirected to “the immediate humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable and poor”, while any humanitarian engagement would be conducted through non-government organisations.

Payne said Australia has “grave concerns” about the military coup, which has reportedly seen at least 54 people killed and many more injured.

“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.

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

READ MORE: What’s on the clandestine nightly flights between Myanmar and China?

On Sunday tens of thousands of people protested across Myanmar, and were met with tear gas, stun grenades, and even bullets, according to Al Jazeera.

The military seized control of the government on February 1, after Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won the general election in a landslide. Suu Kyi and hundreds of other NLD members have been detained by the opposition-backed army, which has claimed the election was impacted by voter fraud.

Australia has called for the release of Australian professor Sean Turnell — who has been detained with limited consular access for more than 30 days — as well as Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and others who have been arbitrarily detained since the coup began.

Payne said Australia has been reviewing its Myanmar policy settings, and has undertaken consultations with international partners, including ASEAN neighbours Japan and India.

READ MORE: Thanks to the internet, we know what’s happening in Myanmar. But a communication blackout may be near


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