Australia could cut Myanmar military ties

Daniel McCulloch
·2-min read

Australia could soon suspend military ties with Myanmar following a coup, but there are fears the move could push the country into deeper engagement with China and undermine regional stability.

Labor and the Greens are calling on the Morrison government to review Australia's defence cooperation with Myanmar after the military seized power.

"Australia should immediately suspend its relationship with the military and look at targeted sanctions on top generals involved," Greens leader Adam Bandt told ABC radio on Wednesday.

"We already have sanctions against a number of other generals there - the US is moving towards it and Australia should join it as well."

Human rights groups are calling for immediate targeted action by Australia, including sanctions and travel bans on the heads of Myanmar's military.

Australia has a defence training program with Myanmar worth about $1.5 million over five years.

Its stated objective is "to talk to them about how a professional military behaves".

"They're clearly not paying attention," Mr Bandt said.

"The strengthening of ties clearly has not worked so this should be the logical next step."

A defence spokesman told Nine the department regularly reviewed its co-operation programs and activities.

''This is a rapidly evolving situation and it is important that we take time to consider the circumstances before any decisions are taken,'' the spokesman said.

Trade Minister Dan Tehan said Australia was monitoring the situation and consulting other countries before deciding whether to impose sanctions on Myanmar's military.

"We will take our time before any decisions are made, and we will look to work in counterpart with other like-minded countries," he told ABC radio.

There are fears Australia, the United States and others imposing tougher sanctions on Myanmar could push its military generals into China's embrace.

"I would hope that it pushes them further towards democracy," Mr Bandt said.

"Over time the country and the country's leadership is going to have to make a decision about whether they want to engage with democracy or not."

Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said Australia and its allies should send a clear signal to Myanmar's military leaders their actions represent an attack on the country's transition to democracy.

"The Australian government must stand in solidarity with the people of Myanmar and ensure the bilateral relationship won't return to business as usual until democracy is restored and political prisoners are released," she said.