Australia Ends Defence Cooperation With Myanmar Over Coup

Marise Ann Payne

Australia has suspended its defence cooperation with Myanmar and is redirecting humanitarian aid because of the military takeover of the government and ongoing detention of an Australian citizen.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Monday that Australian diplomats only had access to economic policy adviser Sean Turnell twice since he was detained in early February.

She described the access as “very limited consular support.” “We continue to absolutely call for the release of Professor Sean Turnell,” Payne told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Australia announced late Sunday it had suspended a defence training program with Myanmar worth about 1.5 million Australian dollars ($1.2 million) over five years. The program had been restricted to non-combat areas such as English-language training.

Australian humanitarian aid will be directed away from Myanmar government and government-related entities.

Instead it will focus on the immediate humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable and poor in Myanmar including the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities, Payne said.

Australia had previously imposed sanctions including an arms embargo and sanctions targeting several individuals. These sanctions would continue to be reviewed, Payne said.

Turnell was detained within weeks of arriving in Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon, from Australia to take up a job as adviser to Aung San Suu Kyi’s government.

Australia has also called for the release of Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and others who have been arbitrarily detained since the Feb. 1 military coup.