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FW: BRERETON PRESS RELEASE
LAURIE BRERETON MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
. NEWS RELEASE . NEWS RELEASE . NEWS RELEASE .
28 June 2000
HUMAN RIGHTS TRAINING IN BURMA
The Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Laurie Brereton, today called on
the Howard Government to cancel its human rights training program with
Burma's military regime.
"Labor has expressed strong reservations about the Howard Government's plans
to step up its engagement with Burma's military regime", Mr Brereton said.
"The Howard Government's $100,000 program to conduct human rights workshops
for Burmese Government officials marks the resumption of direct
government-to-government aid to Burma. This program represents a
significant shift in Australian Government policy."
"The first of these workshops is planned to be held in Rangoon next month.
The second workshop is scheduled to take place in September. Approximately
75 Burmese Government officials will receive training in the initial
program. The Burmese military will have the final say on who participates."
"This program comes in the absence of any real human rights commitments from
Rangoon or benchmarks against which performance will be measured. Burma's
human rights situation appears as bad as ever. The Howard Government's
initiative appears naive and unlikely to bring any substantive benefit to
the long suffering Burmese people."
"At a Senate Estimates Hearing on 31 May, senior DFAT officers admitted that
'the likely [human rights] impact of this exercise is at the margin'."
"The Howard Government's decision to proceed with the human rights training
program has been strongly criticised by Burma's democracy movement including
Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. What is required in Burma is fundamental
political change and real movement toward the restoration of democratic
processes. The only consequence of this ill-considered initiative may be to
give international legitimacy to Burma's military regime."
Mr Brereton noted that the Government has emphasised that no training will
be provided to the Burmese armed forces and that courses will be delivered
to middle ranking civil servants from Ministries including Foreign Affairs,
Attorney-General's, Home Affairs and the Burmese Police.
"It is no surprise that the Government emphasises this distinction, but no
one should have any illusions about the regime in Rangoon and the extent of
military control over the bureaucracy, police and judiciary", Mr Brereton
said. "Burmese Government agencies are deeply implicated in the repressive
practices of the military regime and unlikely to be influenced or reformed
by a limited Australian human rights training program."
"Labor considered view is that this program should be cancelled. The funds
involved could be more usefully spent to programs to assist Burmese refugees
and the many victims of human rights abuse in Burma."
Contact: Philip Dorling 02 6277 4717 or 0416 203 058
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