Australia cuts Myanmar military ties amid ‘rising death toll’

Australia has suspended its defence cooperation programme with Myanmar amid concern about the “escalating violence and rising death toll,” Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said as the country’s military steps up its crackdown on enormous protests against its coup last month.

Myanmar was plunged into turmoil after the army detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and officials from her National League for Democracy party on February 1 and seized control of the country. The coup has triggered a national Civil Disobedience Movement and mass protests in which dozens have been killed.

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

Australia’s bilateral defence ties with Myanmar’s military are restricted to non-combat areas such as English-language training which have continued even after the brutal crackdown in Rakhine state in 2017 that led hundreds of thousands of mostly Muslim Rohingya to flee across the border to Bangladesh.

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