The Australian Government will undermine the democracy movement in Burma by encouraging bilateral trade too soon, the Greens warned today.
Greens spokesperson on Burma Senator Scott Ludlam said today's announcement that the Government is "normalising trade" with Burma is dangerously premature.
"Foreign Minister Bob Carr announced today that the number of Burmese individuals subject to travel bans has been cut from 392 to 130 and trade with Burma would be normalised. Those bans can be restored if reforms do not continue in Burma, but normalised trade links are far more difficult to reverse if the junta refuses to loosen its grip on power. Relaxing sanctions while the military continues to control Burma could sign a death warrant for the democracy movement.
"The recent by-elections saw Aun San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy win 43 of a possible 45 seats. There are 664 seats in Burma's bicameral parliament and 25 per cent of them are guaranteed to the military. The rest were filled mostly by pro-junta candidates in the rigged general election carried out according to a corrupt constitution. There is still a long way to go before Canberra should be rewarding the military junta with normalised trade ties. If it proves that the by-elections and prisoner releases are a short-term stunt, normalised trade will weaken the position of democracy activists while helping the junta get rich.
"Australia's position to date has been to neither encourage nor discourage business investment in Burma. Australian oil and gas companies have helped prop up the regime with funding.
"According to a recent report by the Arakan Oil Watch, billions of dollars in revenues from the sale of natural gas have gone unrecorded in Burma's public accounts and been siphoned off by corrupt military rulers. Normalised trade will only encourage this trend, and weaken Australia's negotiating hand on reforms."