Cut Myanmar military ties, Australia urged

Daniel McCulloch
·2-min read

The Australian government is facing fresh calls to suspend all military ties with Myanmar until democracy has been restored following a coup.

Australian Defence Force troops have provided training, assistance and English lessons to members of the Myanmar military for several years.

But the Greens and human rights groups are calling on Australia to end all cooperation with Myanmar's army and impose sanctions on top generals who engineered the military coup.

"The deadly crackdown on the Rohingya in 2017 has stretched this relationship to breaking point," Greens senator Jordon Steele-John said on Tuesday.

"With the events of the last 48 hours, it is clear there can be no more military cooperation until the situation in Myanmar is resolved."

The Greens are also urging the Myanmar military to immediately release the nation's leader Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint and other civilian leaders detained in the takeover.

Elaine Pearson from Human Rights Watch said Australia downgraded military ties with Thailand in 2014 in response to a military coup.

"There is precedent for this," Ms Pearson said.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne has discussed the military coup with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan as well as the chairman of ASEAN.

"These events are particularly concerning because the political stability of ASEAN member states is essential to achieving a peaceful and secure region, a prosperous and open Indo-Pacific," she told the Senate.

"ASEAN of course is at the centre of our vision for the Indo-Pacific region."

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham called on the Myanmar military to respect democratic principles, uphold the rule of law and release anyone they have detained.

"Of course, if they don't do that, then we'll consider next steps in conjunction with our regional partners," he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison discussed the military takeover in Myanmar during a conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel overnight, with both leaders expressing deep concerns about the coup.

Myanmar's military declared a year-long state of emergency on Monday after detaining Suu Kyi, with soldiers sent into Yangon as the internet and state television were shut down.

The army said it carried out the takeover in response to election fraud but provided no evidence to back up the claim.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy took 396 out of 476 seats in a landslide victory late last year but the military has refused to accept the result.

The coup threatens to end Myanmar's fraught 10-year journey to democracy following decades of military rule.