Australia cuts military ties with Myanmar as ‘death toll rises’ | Military news

Australia was among 13 countries militants say provided assistance to the military who took control of Myanmar in a coup.

Australia has suspended defense cooperation program with Myanmar over concerns over “escalating violence and rising death toll,” Foreign Minister Marise Payne said , as the country’s military stepped up its crackdown on massive protests against its coup last month.

Myanmar was in turmoil after the military arrested elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and officials from her National League for Democracy party on February 1 and took control of the country. The coup sparked a nationwide movement of civil disobedience and mass protests in which dozens of people were killed.

“We continue to strongly urge Myanmar’s security forces to exercise restraint and refrain from violence against civilians,” Payne said.

Australia’s bilateral defense ties with the Myanmar military are limited to non-combat areas, such as English training, which continued even after the brutal crackdown in Rakhine State in 2017 that led hundreds of thousands of Rohingya, mostly Muslims, to flee across the border into Bangladesh.

“Australia has finally ended a training program it should never have started,” said Anna Roberts, executive director of the London-based Burma Campaign, in a statement. “Twelve other countries are still engaged in training and cooperation with the Burmese army. Countries providing training to the Burmese army have sided with the army, which is shooting at peaceful protesters. They cannot claim non-interference in the internal affairs of Burma when they are helping a party. An army that kills civilians. “

Security forces officers kicked a protester in Mandalay in March in a still image obtained from social media [Shiro/via Reuters]
Soldiers advance to disperse crowds of protesters in Yangon on March 3. Australia has said it is suspending a training program with the Burmese military due to increased violence and rising death toll. [File: Lynn Bo Bo/EPA]

The Burma Campaign said the 12 countries that still train Myanmar’s military include China, India, Pakistan and Ukraine. Activists are calling for a full arms embargo in the country.

Australia will also redirect immediate humanitarian needs to the predominantly Muslim Rohingya and other ethnic minorities, Payne said on Monday and bypass Myanmar government bodies.

“We have also looked at the development agenda and the development support we are providing and reoriented that with a focus on the immediate needs of some of the most vulnerable and poor countries in Myanmar, which is one of the most poor ASEAN, ”Payne said. cited by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Australia has said it will continue to demand the immediate release of Sean Turnell, economist and adviser to Aung San Suu Kyi, authorities said. Turnell has been held with limited consular access since the coup.

Myanmar’s main unions have called a general strike from Monday, following huge protests on Sunday. The protests sparked a backlash from police and security forces using tear gas, stun guns and live ammunition to break through the crowds, according to videos shared by local residents.

Soldiers have also been deployed to public buildings across the country, sparking clashes, the Myanmar Now news agency reported.

The Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners, which monitors the arrests, reports that 1,790 people have been arrested since the March 7 coup. A total of 1,472 are still in detention.

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