Moves to build military ties between Canberra and Rangoon could potentially weaken the movement for reforms in Burma, the Greens warned today.
Senator Scott Ludlam queried the terms of engagement proposed by Prime Minister Gillard in resuming military ties with Burma while the Burmese army continues to persecute ethnic minorities.
"If this is about assisting the regime with security sector reform and improving operating procedures that have shocked the world in past decades, then there may be some value in closer ties.
"However, political reforms in Burma remain fragile and reversible. Tens of thousands of Rohingya people have been driven from their homes just in the past week by violence in the western state of Rakhine. The Burmese government treats the Rohingya as illegal immigrants and violates their human rights.
"The UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Burma, Tomás Ojea Quintana, said the Rohingya face ‘endemic discrimination' and expressed hope that Prime Minister Gillard, among other regional leaders, would take action to help end the persecution. I doubt that renewed military ties is what he had in mind.
"The Burmese military is heavily deployed in the resource-rich state of Kachin. Last June a 17-year truce in this six-decade long conflict broke and in recent months Burmese forces have been escalating their offensive. Do we want Australia implicated in this bloody civil war, or does Prime Minister Gillard believe the ADF can play a role in defusing this conflict?
"The Burmese military continues to hold excessive political power. The by-elections that brought Aung San Suu Kyi and other National League for Democracy members into parliament elected only 45 of a possible 664 seats in Burma's legislature. One quarter of the seats in Burma's parliament are guaranteed to the military, the rest are filled mostly by pro-junta candidates elected in a massively flawed general poll."