By ROD McGUIRK Associated Press
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Australia has suspended its defense cooperation with Myanmar and diverted humanitarian aid due to the government’s takeover by the military and the ongoing detention of an Australian citizen.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Monday that Australian diplomats had only had access to economic policy adviser Sean Turnell twice since he was detained in early February. He described the access as “very limited consular support”.
“We continue to call for Professor Sean Turnell’s release,” Payne told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Australia late Sunday announced it was suspending a defense training program with Myanmar worth an estimated 1.5 million Australian dollars ($ 1.2 million) for five years. The program has been limited to non-combat areas such as English language training.
Australian humanitarian aid will be directed away from the 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 has previously imposed sanctions including an arms embargo and sanctions targeting multiple individuals. These sanctions will continue to be reviewed, Payne said.
Turnell was detained within weeks of arriving in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, from Australia to take a job as a government adviser to Aung San Suu Kyi.
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