March 2018


The well-regarded British newspaper The Guardian has reported that, “The Australian defense department plans to spend almost $400,000 on English lessons, event attendances and training courses for members of the Myanmar military in 2017-18,” a significant increase since last year, according to documents released under freedom of information laws. In this way, the Myanmar military leaders may feel rewarded for their campaign of mass rapes and mass displacement of the Rohingya since last year.


While some government spokesmen claim that such military-to-military engagement may help to blunt the harshness of Myanmar’s brutal military culture, such programs also send the wrong signal, both to the Myanmar government and to other regimes. Evidence in the article indicates that such programs serve to weaken Australian government criticisms of ethnic cleansing. Moreover, Australians do not choose the military officers that get to participate in its training programs. There is nothing to prevent war criminals from attending.


Australia should not be naïve about the impact of its military training programs. The United States has made similar mistakes in the past; seeking to professionalize military officers from a variety of regimes, only to find this makes war criminals more efficient. The entire program needs to be frozen and reconsidered. For the moment, our strong advice is to avoid any appearance of complicity. Instead, since Aung San Suu Kyi is due to visit Sydney this month for the ASEAN-Australia special summit, the Government of Australia must speak up for its best values, instead of enabling mass persecution. 

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What to say to Prime Minister of Australia


1. The Myanmar Military is responsible for mass atrocities and mass rapes and now is not the time to normalize relations with them.


2. It is contrary to the values of the Australian people to enable a genocidal military.


3. Complicity with this corruptive and brutal military force is not even in the interests of the Australian Government.


4.Ninety percent of the Rohingya people have now been displaced from their homeland.


5.Instead of assisting the perpetrators, the government of Myanmar should fund civil society organizations that resist hateful and divisive policies; and civilian leaders should be encouraged to support pluralism through education and media efforts.


6.Australian leaders must speak out forcefully and publicly on behalf of the Rohingya now and during Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit to Australia this month.


Contact Australian Leaders